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kottke.org posts about photography

Visualizing our world’s ever-growing urban infrastructure

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

For his projects Exodus and Timeout, Marcus Lyon takes overhead photographs and edits them into fantastical scenes that nonetheless seem plausible. LAX isn’t that large, no waterpark in Houston has that many pools, and Dubai’s roads do not have 70+ lanes, but you kinda have to look at satellite imagery on Google Maps to verify the fabrications.

Dollar Street

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

Dollar Street is a project by Anna Rosling Rönnlund that imagines the world as a street ordered by income…poor families live at one end and rich families live at the other. A team of photographers went out and photographed the everyday items owned by families of all income levels — shoes, toothbrushes, TVs, beds, lights, sinks — so that visitors to the site can see how much income affects how families live.

Everyone needs to eat, sleep and pee. We all have the same needs, but we can afford different solutions. Select from 100 topics. The everyday life looks surprisingly similar for people on the same income level across cultures and continents.

Rönnlund explained her project at TED recently:

Bill Gates, who lives just one house in from the very end of the street (Bezos currently occupies the cul de sac), wrote about Dollar Street recently:

Income can often tell you more about how people live than location can. Whenever I visit a new place, I look for clues about which income level local families live on. Are there power lines? What kind of roofs do the houses have? Are people riding bikes or walking from place to place?

The answers to these questions tell me a lot about the people there. If I see power lines, I know homes probably have electricity in this area — which means that kids have enough light to do their homework after the sun sets. If I see patchwork roofs, families likely sleep less during the rainy season because they’re wet and cold. If I see bikes, that tells me people don’t have to spend hours walking to get water every day.

However, Gates’ conclusion — “It’s a beautiful reminder that we have more in common with people on the other side of the world than we think” — is not what I would take away from this. (via @roeeb/status/994474179339501568)

Street photos of NYC from 1969 to 2006

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2018

Jeff Rothstein NYC

Jeff Rothstein NYC

Jeff Rothstein NYC

“Urban observer” Jeff Rothstein has been wandering the streets of NYC taking B&W photos since the early 1970s. Among the photos, you can find snaps of John and Yoko, Bob Dylan, and Muhammad Ali. What’s interesting is because they are black & white and the look of NYC’s streets haven’t changed that much (from some angles at least), you can’t often tell when a particular photo was taken unless you look closely at clothing styles or signage in the background. And even then…NYC kids have been wearing Adidas kicks for more than 30 years.

You can buy his book, Today’s Special: New York City Images 1969-2006, right here on his website. (via craig mod)

The Summer of ‘78, NYC in photos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

In the summer of 1978, eight NY Times staff photographers, who had some time on their hands because of a newspaper strike, set out to document people using NYC’s parks. They took almost 3000 photos, which were recently rediscovered in a pair of cardboard boxes, forgotten and unseen for decades.

The infamous wretched New York of the 1970s and 1980s can be glimpsed here, true to the pages of outlaw history.

But that version has never been truth enough.

The photos speak a commanding, unwritten narrative of escape and discovery.

“You see that people were not going to the parks just to get away from it all, but also to find other people,” said Jonathan Kuhn, the director of art and antiquities for the department.

The NY Times has a selection of the photos and there’s an exhibition featuring the photos on view at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park until June 14.

An AI can realistically “paint in” missing areas of photographs

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2018

This video, and the paper it’s based on, is called “Image Inpainting for Irregular Holes Using Partial Convolutions” but it’s actually straight-up witchcraft! Researchers at NVIDIA have developed a deep-learning program that can automagically paint in areas of photographs that are missing. Ok, you’re saying, Photoshop has been able to do something like that for years. And the first couple of examples were like, oh that’s neat. But then the eyes are deleted from a model’s portrait and the program drew new eyes for her. Under close scrutiny, the results are not completely photorealistic, but at a glance it’s remarkably convincing. (via imperica)

Four seasons in the life of a Finnish island

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2018

Jani Ylinampa Kotisaari

Nestled amongst hundreds of stunning shots of the aurora borealis taken by Finnish photographer Jani Ylinampa is a series of four photos of Kotisaari, showing the island from a drone’s point of view for each of the four seasons (clockwise from upper left): spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

But seriously, go check out Ylinampa’s Instagram account…it’s packed with aurora borealis photos. What a magical place to live, where the sky lights up like that all the time.

TFW when your outfit perfectly matches land, sea, and sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2018

August Ostberg

I know many photographers have taken similar photos, but August Östberg’s Lover in Disguise is a particularly good instance of fashion camouflage.

See also people who dress like their surroundings and Dressed to Match.

The Pigeon Photographer: Aerial photographs from the turn of the century

posted by Tim Carmody   Apr 20, 2018

Pigeon Camera 01.jpg

The New Yorker has some genuinely exciting early aerial photographs, taken by birds. They’re excerpts from a new book, The Pigeon Photographer, about Dr. Julius Neubronner.

Neubronner developed the pigeon camera for practical purposes. At first, he was simply hoping to track the flights of the birds in his flock. But his invention also represented a more sublime achievement. The images his pigeons captured, featured in “The Pigeon Photographer,” a recent book from Rorhof, are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above (the earliest were captured from balloons and kites) and are distinct for having the GoPro-like quality of channelling animal movement. That perspective that is so commonplace to us now, in which the rooftops stretch out before us as though they were made of a child’s blocks, and people crawl along like ants, was a rare sight when Neubronner took his pigeon pictures. The photos offered a glimpse of the world rendered pocket-size, as it eventually would be via a hundred types of new technology—by airplanes, or skyscrapers, or Google Earth.

But there’s also something a bit wild about the photos, precisely because they were taken by birds. Their framing is random and their angles are askew; sometimes a wing feather obscures the view. Pigeons are surely the most pedestrian of birds, but, looking at these oddly graceful photographs, or at Neubronner’s pictures of the birds looking stately and upright in their photo kits, they start to seem like heavenly creatures.

These pictures remind me quite a bit of the chapters in Paul Saint-Amour’s Tense Future on the relationship between aerial photography and modernist art. (I can’t recall if he mentions the pigeons or not.)

Sporting events compressed into single composite photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2018

Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass

Photographer Pelle Cass has been constructing composite photos of groups of people for some time now, photoshopping the action from dozens of photos into a single frame.

With the camera on a tripod, I take many dozens of pictures, and simply leave in the figures I choose and omit the rest. The photographs are composite, but nothing has been changed, only selected. My subject is the strangeness of time, the exact way people look, and a surprising world that is visible only with a camera.

More recently, Cass has turned his attention to sporting events, capturing competitors playing basketball, diving, playing lacrosse, running track, and playing hockey. The project is called Crowded Fields; it’s not up on his website yet, but you can see some of the images on Instagram and Booooooom.

I love this sort of thing, whole stretches of time compressed into single frames or short videos. See also time merge media, Peter Funch’s Babel Tales, Dennis Hlynsky’s bird contrails, and busy day at the airport. (via colossal)

The world’s largest ice carousel

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2018

Ice Carousel

Ice Carousel

Ice Carousel

A group of Mainers have created what they say is the world’s largest ice carousel. An ice carousel is formed when a circular piece of ice is allowed to spin freely within a surrounding sheet of ice. Spinning disks of ice can form naturally in slowly flowing rivers, but the ice carousel in Sinclair at the tip of northern Maine was cut specifically out of the ice on Long Lake.

The carousel is 427 feet across, a quarter mile in circumference, more than two feet thick, and estimated to weigh 11,000 tons. The keep the carousel spinning very slowly with a collection of outboard boat motors fastened to the disk. Here’s a video tour by drone:

The photos above are by Paul Cyr, who has many more here, including some of the construction process.

Extraordinary aerial photograph of Edinburgh circa 1920

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2018

Alfred Buckham Edinburgh

I’d never seen this stunning aerial photograph of Edinburgh taken by Alfred Buckham circa 1920. Buckham was a pioneer of aerial photography, a profession he continued after getting discharged from the Royal Naval Air Service after crashing nine times and being declared “a hundred per cent disabled”. Very little slowed him down apparently, as Buckham himself wrote about his working setup:

It is not easy to tumble out of an aeroplane, unless you really want to, and on considerably more than a thousand flights I have used a safety belt only once and then it was thrust upon me. I always stand up to make an exposure and, taking the precaution to tie my right leg to the seat, I am free to move about rapidly, and easily, in any desired direction; and loop the loop and indulge in other such delights, with perfect safety.

But back to that photograph, it looks like a dang painting! Instant favorite…I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. (via sam potts)

Unknown Soviet photographer left a huge cache of photos behind when she died

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2018

Masha Ivashintsova

Masha Ivashintsova

Masha Ivashintsova

Born in 1942, Masha Ivashintsova was a photographer based in Leningrad who, when she died in 2000, left over 30,000 photographs that she never showed to anyone, not even her family.

My mother, Masha Ivashintsova, was heavily engaged in the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960-80s. She was a lover of three geniuses of the time: Photographer Boris Smelov, Poet Viktor Krivulin and Linguist Melvar Melkumyan, who is also my father. Her love for these three men, who could not be more different, defined her life, consumed her fully, but also tore her apart. She sincerely believed that she paled next to them and consequently never showed her photography works, her diaries and poetry to anyone during her life.

After her death, her daughter and son-in-law found the photos in the attic and have built a website to showcase Ivashintsova’s work; it’s also being shared via Instagram.

Satellite images taken at an angle

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2018

Satellite Side View

Satellite Side View

Satellite Side View

Planet Labs has published a selection of satellite images taken at an angle rather than the more familiar straight-down view.

Once a matter of debate, we know today the Earth is not flat. But the satellite imagery we’re most familiar with — taken straight down — flattens and obscures the visual cues we get from perspective, making the imagery appear like maps, not photos.

Take for example this nadir view of Monte Fitz Roy. You might not appreciate that these are mountains unless you spot the clue in the jagged shadows coming off the mountain’s serrated summits.

When you take an image of Monte Fitz Roy from an angle, the view becomes altogether different: the mountains rise to their commanding height, valleys regain their depth, and background features recede into the distance. It’s like getting a view out the window of an airplane 450 kilometers high.

Older Japanese women are shoplifting to find community and meaning in jail

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2018

Shiho Fukada

Shiho Fukada

In Japan, where 27.3% of the population is 65 or older, elderly women are committing petty crimes like shoplifting in order to go to jail to find care and community that is increasingly denied them elsewhere. Japan’s jails are becoming nursing homes.

Why have so many otherwise law-abiding elderly women resorted to petty theft? Caring for Japanese seniors once fell to families and communities, but that’s changing. From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo’s government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don’t have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.

Even women with a place to go describe feeling invisible. “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home,” says Yumi Muranaka, head warden of Iwakuni Women’s Prison, 30 miles outside Hiroshima. “They feel they are not understood. They feel they are only recognized as someone who gets the house chores done.”

All photos by Shiho Fukada. The first photo is of Mrs. F, aged 89, who stole “rice, strawberries, cold medicine”. She says: “I was living alone on welfare. I used to live with my daughter’s family and used all my savings taking care of an abusive and violent son-in-law.” The woman in the second photo recounts:

The first time I shoplifted was about 13 years ago. I wandered into a bookstore in town and stole a paperback novel. I was caught, taken to a police station, and questioned by the sweetest police officer. He was so kind. He listened to everything I wanted to say. I felt I was being heard for the first time in my life. In the end, he gently tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘I understand you were lonely, but don’t do this again.’

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working in the prison factory. The other day, when I was complimented on how efficient and meticulous I was, I grasped the joy of working. I regret that I never worked. My life would have been different.

I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don’t feel lonely here. When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn’t go back. But when I was out, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic.

Photographer captures the same people on the same NYC street corner many times over 9 years

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2018

Peter Funch

Peter Funch

For 9 years, photographer Peter Funch stood on a street corner near Grand Central Terminal, photographing the same people over and over again on their commutes to work…often wearing the same clothes and drinking the same drink. The result is 42nd and Vanderbilt (also available as a book).

The corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue… what’s that? It’s a patch of nowhere that hides, like similar patches of nowhere, in all cities everywhere. It’s the space of Edward Hopper. It’s the real estate equivalent of a Styrofoam packing peanut. It’s blank, and it’s in this blankness that we circle back to Warhol and repetition and the aesthetic experience we enjoy when we look from one Marilyn to the next to see which screened face has what kind of silkscreen printing error.

Reminds me a little of several things, but mostly of Hans Eijkelboom’s People of the Twenty-First Century.

Incredible lava photos from Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2018

Michael Shainblum Lava

For his project Cascade of Lava, photographer Michael Shainblum captured several photos of lava pouring out into the ocean in Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. The double rainbow one is just…

Shainblum also took some photos during the solar eclipse last year.

Fashion Climbing, photographer Bill Cunningham’s secret memoir

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2018

Fashion Climbing

This is kind of amazing. Legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died two years ago, leaving behind a massive body of work documenting the last 40 years of the fashion world. Somewhat surprisingly, he also wrote a memoir that seemingly no one knew about. He called it Fashion Climbing (pre-order on Amazon).

Fashion Climbing is the story of a young man striving to be the person he was born to be: a true original. But although he was one of the city’s most recognized and treasured figures, Bill was also one of its most guarded. Written with his infectious joy and one-of-a-kind voice, this memoir was polished, neatly typewritten, and safely stored away in his lifetime. He held off on sharing it — and himself — until his passing. Between these covers, is an education in style, an effervescent tale of a bohemian world as it once was, and a final gift to the readers of one of New York’s great characters.

The NY Times, where Cunningham worked for decades, has more information on the book.

“There I was, 4 years old, decked out in my sister’s prettiest dress,” reads the memoir’s second sentence. “Women’s clothes were always much more stimulating to my imagination. That summer day, in 1933, as my back was pinned to the dining room wall, my eyes spattering tears all over the pink organdy full-skirted dress, my mother beat the hell out of me, and threatened every bone in my uninhibited body if I wore girls’ clothes again.”

The wonderful documentary about Cunningham is currently available on Amazon Prime. I was lucky enough to catch Cunningham at work on the streets of NYC, once at the Union Square Greenmarket and another time during Summer Streets. Watching him snap away with his camera in that blue coat of his, bicycle propped nearby, was thrilling for me, like watching a superhero dispatching bad guys on the streets of Metropolis or Gotham.1

  1. Almost as thrilling was watching Maira Kalman sketching people at a MoMA cafe. We usually only ever see the output of artists, so watching them actually at work is a special thing.

A recap and photos of National School Walkout Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2018

National Walkout Day

I didn’t get to follow National School Walkout Day as closely as I wanted to yesterday, but I just wanted to say on the morning after that I am very much in support of these kids, very proud of them, and deeply ashamed that ours is a country that has to regularly lean so hard on some of our most vulnerable members of society to get people and politicians to react to gross social injustice.

Buzzfeed has a great roundup of action from around the country, including 16-year-old Justin Blackman, who was the only one to walk out at his school…and ended up with millions of people supporting his efforts online. The Atlantic’s In Focus has gathered 35 photos of the walkout from around the nation.

Ohio teenager’s raw photographs of his high school friends

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2018

Colin Combs

Colin Combs

The New Yorker is featuring a selection of photos taken by high school senior Colin Combs, mostly of him and his friends in Dayton, Ohio, “sometimes called the heroin capital of the United States”.

Minimalism is the necessary ethos of both his concept and his process. His equipment consists of expired film and cheap or disposable cameras, which Combs receives from patrons, including Wolfgang Grossmann, a school security guard, and Amy Powell, his photography teacher. Powell, who sent The New Yorker a selection of Combs’s images last December — the magazine later had dozens of rolls developed — has indulged her student’s autodidacticism, a trait that some educators might mistake for disobedience. “Sometimes he won’t do the assignments for class,” she said recently, laughing. “But he is always so hungry, prolific, constantly shooting. I’ve never had a student produce as much.”

The piece compares Combs’ work with that of Nan Goldin; parallels with the work of Larry Clark (NSFW), Ryan McGinley (NSFW), and Harmony Korine are also present. I went to see the Stephen Shore show at MoMA the other day (very recommended) and Combs’ photos making their way to the New Yorker reminded me of a 14-year-old Shore asking Edward Steichen, then MoMA’s curator of photography, to review his portfolio. Steichen purchased three photos from him.

You can follow Combs’ work on Instagram or read more about his work in the local Dayton paper.

Holy mountains haloed by drone light

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2018

Reuben Wu Halo

Reuben Wu Halo

Reuben Wu Halo

Oh, I love these photos by Reuben Wu. As part of his project Lux Noctis, Wu flies drones in circles around mountain peaks and takes long-exposure photos, creating these beautiful haloed landscapes. Wu spoke to Colossal about his interest in zero-trace land art:

Recently Wu has evolved his process of working with the drones to form light paths above topographical peaks in the mountainous terrain. “I see it as a kind of ‘zero trace’ version of land art where the environment remains untouched by the artist, and at the same time is presented in a sublime way which speaks to 19th century Romantic painting and science and fictional imagery,” said Wu to Colossal.

Puzzle twins

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2018

Puzzle Twins

Puzzle Twins

Puzzle Twins

For her project entitled Within 15 Minutes, artist Alma Haser made identical jigsaw puzzles out of portraits she’d taken of identical twins and then swapped every other piece when putting them together, creating these serendipitously fragmented portraits. She said of her first attempt last year:

So today for no apparent reason I thought I’d test out a crazy idea I had. For the project I have been switching just the faces of the identical twins, but today I decided to see what it would look like to swap every other pieces with reach other. Completely entwining the beautiful @being__her sisters. And wow, what an effect! It really make you double take at their faces, trying to decipher one for the other.

You can follow Haser’s work, including the twin puzzles, on Instagram.

This bridge cuts sea ice into tidy rectangles

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2018

Bridge Ice Cutter

The 8-mile-long Confederation Bridge links Prince Edward Island with mainland Canada. In the winter, when the water in the strait freezes, the wind and tides can push the floating ice against the bridge, causing the evenly spaced piers to slice the ice into remarkably uniform rectangular chunks.

To put the rectangles into perspective, the bridge piers that are designed to break up the ice floes are 250 meters apart. That distance would also represent the width of each of the rectangles. The length of the blocks varies but, on average, the length is about 75 per cent greater than the width.

It is likely that the Confederation Bridge will have lots of slicing to do this winter. Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesman, Steve Hachey said ice conditions started developing in the Northumberland Strait earlier than normal this year, resulting in a current thickness of up to 30 centimeters.

The bridge was specifically designed to withstand these sorts of pressures from the ice. Photo by Paul Tymstra.

Update: Courtesy of EOS LandViewer, a recent satellite image shows the bridge’s ice slicing in action:

Confed Bridge Sat

(via @stepan_klimov)

Winners of the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2018

Underwater 2018

Underwater 2018

Underwater 2018

The winners of the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year have been announced and In Focus has a nice selection of the winners and runners-up.

Top photo by Filippo Borghi and the bottom two by Greg Lecoeur. Said Borghi about his photo:

During springtime, from April to June, on the coast of Baja, California, we can witness one of the most impressive migrations of the sea. Thousands of mobula rays migrate along this coast. I tried many times to find this incredible behavior but never was able. This year, during a morning safari on the sea, we saw a different group of beautiful mobula rays. I jumped in the water and we followed them for a couple of hours and a small group moved into a shallow area where I was able to shoot in great light.

Great stuff if you’ve been watching Blue Planet II. And if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?!

Photo of a single atom wins science photo contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Single Atom Photo

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council just announced the winner of their annual science photography contest: a photo of a single strontium atom suspended in an electric field taken by David Nadlinger. The atom is that tiiiiny dot in the middle of the photo above.

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

Are these photographs of moons or pancakes?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Pancake Moons

Pancake Moons

Pancake Moons

Nadine Schlieper and Robert Pufleb have published a book called Alternative Moons. The book is filled with photographs of pancakes that look like moons.

See also Christopher Jonassen’s photos of frying pans that look like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Oh, and don’t forget about the world’s best pancake recipe.

Supercut of cliched Instagram travel photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2018

Now that leisure travel is widely accesible, the internet connects everyone, and most people have connected cameras on them 24/7, one of the side effects is that everyone’s vacation snaps look pretty much the same. Oliver KMIA collected hundreds of travel photos from Instagram, grouped them together by subject — passport shot, Mona Lisa, side mirror selfie, Leaning Tower, ramen bowl — and assembled them into this two-minute video of our collective homogenized travel experience. And it’s not just travel…vast swaths of Instagram are just variations on a theme:

Of course, my Instagram feed has no such cliches*ahem*. (via @choitotheworld)

Update: In his book How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain De Botton talks about the difficulty with cliches.

We may ask why Proust objected to phrases that had been used too often. After all, doesn’t the moon shine discreetly? Don’t sunsets look as if they were on fire? Aren’t clichés just good ideas that have been proved rightly popular?

The problem with clichés is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones. The sun is often on fire at sunset and the moon discreet, but if we keep saying this every time we encounter a sun or moon, we will end up believing that this is the last rather than the first word to be said on the subject. Clichés are detrimental insofar as they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while merely grazing its surface. And if this matters, it is because the way we speak is ultimately linked to the way we feel, because how we describe the world must at some level reflect how we first experience it.

In other words, taking a photo of a friend holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa or jumping in the middle of the road in Utah are really good ideas — that’s why lots of people do it — but each successive photo of the same thing doesn’t tell us anything new about those places, experiences, or people. (via mark larson)

Photos from the Curiosity rover’s 2000 days on Mars

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2018

Mars Curiosity Photos

Mars Curiosity Photos

Mars Curiosity Photos

NASA’s Curiosity rover has been on Mars for more than 2000 days now, and it has sent back over 460,000 images of the planet. Looking at them, it still boggles the mind that we can see the surface of another planet with such clarity, like we’re looking out the window at our front yard. Alan Taylor has collected a bunch of Curiosity’s photos from its mission, many of which look like holiday snapshots from the rover’s trip to the American Southwest.

The cinematography of James Wong Howe

posted by Tim Carmody   Jan 19, 2018

Did you know that the Google Arts and Culture app does more than just match your selfies to better identify you on Google Image Search to fun portraits in museums that highlight the overwhelming representation of white men in museal collections? It’s true. For instance, there’s this fun little article on the life and career of cinematographer James Wong Howe:

James Wong Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Guangzhou, China on August 28, 1899. Howe’s father brought his young family to the US - what he described as the ‘mountain of gold’ - when Howe was 5 years old.

His first home was Pascoe, Washington, where his father opened a general store and became the first Chinese merchant in the town. As a child, Howe faced vicious racism. His first schoolteacher quit as she didn’t want to teach a person of Chinese descent. His second teacher changed his name to be more anglicised, which is how he became ‘James Wong Howe’.

James Wong Howe.png

Wong Howe pioneered the wide-angle lens, low key lighting (which earned him the nickname “Low Key Howe”), and deep focus. He was also one of the first cameramen to ever use a hand-held camera. But he also had some unusual approaches to the new technology of film….

Other ingenious techniques that Howe used included: shooting a boxing scene by rollerskating around the action; using the reflection of tin cans to light a scene up a hill without electric lights; shooting scenes while being pushed around in a wheelchair; and weighing down birds to make them land where he needed them to.

Howe photographed over a hundred films from the silent era to the seventies, including 1933’s The Power and the Glory (basically one of a few films that have a claim to have been Citizen Kane before Citizen Kane), The Thin Man, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Body and Soul (the boxing movie he wore roller skates for), Picnic, and Funny Lady. He won the Oscar for cinematography for The Rose Tattoo and the gorgeous, unforgettable Hud.

Howe was 63 when he photographed this movie. It’s relentlessly inventive without being showy. It looks like a Scorsese movie. Come to think of it—a lot of Howe’s movies look like Scorsese movies.

It’s worth poking around that Arts & Culture app. A lot of the stories could be better sourced and written, but they’re overwhelmingly stories worth telling. Plus, you already downloaded the stupid thing onto your phone. Might as well try to learn something.

Gorgeous 50-megapixel panoramas shot on an iPhone at 20,000 feet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2018

Laforet Iphone Pano

Laforet Iphone Pano

Laforet Iphone Pano

Over on his Instagram account, photographer Vincent Laforet is sharing some 50-megapixel panoramic photos he shot for Apple. He strapped an iPhone 7 to the bottom of a Learjet, set it on Pano mode, and flew it over various landscapes at a height of 20,000 feet. Here’s the first one.

For 7 consecutive days I will be posting a series of 50+ Megapixel Panoramic Photographs shot on an @apple iPhone 7, from the belly of a LearJet from 20,000 feet above the earth.

We set the standard Camera App to “Pano” Mode and flew for 2-7 minutes at 220+ Knots on a perfectly straight line and we witnessed the iPhone effectively paint the landscape like a roller brush. It produced a stunningly high quality image that I’d never before seen before from any smartphone!

Laforet also shot a video from some of those same flights using a RED camera in 8K resolution.

Watch this on as big a screen as you can in 4K. Wonderful.

A visit to an American factory that’s been producing pencils since 1889

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2018

Pencil Factory

Pencil Factory

Pencil Factory

What a marvelous little photo essay by Christopher Payne and Sam Anderson about General Pencil, one of the last remaining pencil factories in America.

Other parts of the factory are eruptions of color. Red pencils wait, in orderly grids, to be dipped into bright blue paint. A worker named Maria matches the color of her shirt and nail polish to the shade of the pastel cores being manufactured each week. One of the company’s signature products, white pastels, have to be made in a dedicated machine, separated from every other color. At the tipping machine, a whirlpool of pink erasers twists, supervised patiently by a woman wearing a bindi.

You can see many more of Payne’s photos of General Pencil on his website. Here’s Maria, her shirt and nails red to match the color of the pastel cores. There are also a couple of videos of the General Pencil factory:

And this older one that shows much more of the pencil-making process. Neither video includes a shot of the belt sander sharpening system…you can see that in action here.

See also I, Pencil, which details the construction of the humble pencil as a triumph of the free market, a history of pencil lead and how pencils are made, and how crayons are made, with videos from both Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. Oh, and you can buy some of General Pencil’s #2 Cedar Pointes right here.