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kottke.org posts about photography

How Postwar Italy Created The Paparazzi

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2022

From film fan Benito Mussolini and the postwar explosion of Italian filmmaking to a financial rule with big effects and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Evan Puschak tells the story of how the paparazzi was created.

The history of celebrity paparazzi disrupted the highly manicured image movie stars had enjoyed since the golden age of Hollywood. They brought these gods of our culture down to the messy earth. Interestingly though, this didn’t dampen our obsession with fame, as you might expect. No, it turbo charged it. Something about seeing our celebrities brought low — catching a glimpse of their flaws and pains — it didn’t push the famous off these weird pedestals we put them on. It only intensified our fixation with them.

Mars Helicopter Spots Perseverance Rover’s Landing Debris

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

wreckage from the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars

wreckage from the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars

On the 26th flight of Ingenuity, NASA’s helicopter on Mars, it spotted and photographed the wreckage of the Perseverance rover’s landing gear, protective shell, and parachute. From a NY Times article on the photos:

“There’s definitely a sci-fi element to it,” Ian Clark, an engineer who worked on Perseverance’s parachute system, said of photographs released on Wednesday. “It exudes otherworldly, doesn’t it?”

Part of the reason NASA had Ingenuity go take a look is to see how all of that equipment held up during the landing process. Data from the photos will inform future missions.

“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” said JPL’s Ian Clark, former Perseverance systems engineer and now Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead. “But Ingenuity’s images offer a different vantage point. If they either reinforce that our systems worked as we think they worked or provide even one dataset of engineering information we can use for Mars Sample Return planning, it will be amazing. And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring.”

In the images of the upright backshell and the debris field that resulted from it impacting the surface at about 78 mph (126 kph), the backshell’s protective coating appears to have remained intact during Mars atmospheric entry. Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the backshell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact. Spread out and covered in dust, only about a third of the orange-and-white parachute — at 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, it was the biggest ever deployed on Mars — can be seen, but the canopy shows no signs of damage from the supersonic airflow during inflation. Several weeks of analysis will be needed for a more final verdict.

It is really remarkable, the images we’re seeing from Mars, taken by a robotic helicopter.

Clever Cutout Portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

Rudy Willingham holds up paper cutouts of people (and Muppets!) against carefully chosen backgrounds and photographs the results, resulting in these witty portraits.

cutout portrait of Big Bird

cutout portrait of Beyonce

cutout portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

cutout portrait of Prince

You can find more of Willingham’s work across his various social media platforms: website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.

The Bagworm Caterpillar’s DIY Mobile Log Cabin

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2022

The bagworm caterpillar is quite the animal architect. In preparation for its transformation into a moth, the caterpillar builds itself a house that it carries around on its back out of materials it finds in its habitat, like sticks or leaves. When it enters the pupa stage, the caterpillar fastens the house to something solid and hunkers down inside.

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

I couldn’t source the top photo but the bottom two were taken by John Horstman, who has a bunch of incredible photos of bagworm caterpillar houses on Flickr. Nicky Bay has also taken many photos of bagworm caterpillar architecture.

The Best Photos From the Shot on iPhone Macro Challenge

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2022

dewdrops on a delicate spider web

closeup shot of the structure of a plant leaf

Apple recently announced the winners of a competition to highlight the best macro photos shot on the newest iPhones. Amazing photos from a phone. The camera is really the only reason I upgrade my iPhone every year…it just gets better and better.

Black Sun: Starling Murmurations

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2022

a large flock of starlings form a pattern in the sky

a large flock of starlings form a pattern in the sky

For his project Black Sun, Danish photographer Søren Solkær travelled all over Europe to capture the murmurations of migrating starlings.

The starlings move as one unified organism that vigorously opposes any outside threat. A strong visual expression is created — like that of an ink drawing or a calligraphic brush stroke — asserting itself against the sky. Shapes and black lines of condensation form within the swarm, resembling waves of interference or mathematical abstractions written across the horizon. At times the flock seems to possess the cohesive power of super fluids, changing shape in an endless flux: From geometric to organic, from solid to fluid, from matter to ethereal, from reality to dream — an exchange in which real time ceases to exist and mythical time pervades.

These photographs are also available on Instagram and in book form from Solkær’s website. (via ny times)

Alphabet Truck

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2022

Over a period of four years and after thousands of miles of driving, Eric Tabuchi photographed the backs of semi-trailers with letters of the alphabet on them, eventually compiling all 26 letters. Here’s the first dozen:

Alphabet Truck

(via present & correct)

Aerial Photos of Vast Solar Farms

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2022

a solar farm photographed from the air

a solar farm photographed from the air

a solar farm photographed from the air

For his Solar Power Series, photographer Tom Hegen aerially photographed solar power plants in France, Spain, and the US. It’s not an accident that some of these look like flowers and plants — the compact geometry to ideally capture solar power is similar in both instances.

In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year. Having this in mind, renewable energy sources could be the key to combating climate change.

What does transforming towards more sustainable sources of energy look like?

(via colossal)

Overseen Text Messages

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2022

a photo of a text message chat between two people who miss each other

a photo of a text message chat about the future and strawberries

#nyc is photographer Jeff Mermelstein’s collection of photos he’s taken on the streets of NYC of text messages on people’s phone screens. From a review of the book at LensCulture:

At once detached and intimate, we are offered a collection of fragmentary texts that register the daily life events and feelings of a city’s occupants, a raw vox pop assortment of broken and interrupted and incomplete messages. We watch users reading, texting and even editing on their phones. There are texts about break ups, declarations of love, dreams, lusts, illnesses, affairs, abortion, pregnancy, death, sexual proclivities, money, as well as recipes, cooking, dirty shower curtains and roach traps. Some messages remain unfathomable and enigmatic: “The nun said, ‘That’s OK…”

I wonder about the privacy aspect of this, but it’s always fascinating to see how other people communicate.

The Highest Resolution Photo of the Sun Ever Taken

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2022

very high resolution image of the Sun

The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter recently took 25 images of the Sun from a distance of 46 million miles that, when stitched all together, form the highest resolution photo of the Sun (and its corona) ever created.

The high-resolution telescope of EUI takes pictures of such high spatial resolution that, at that close distance, a mosaic of 25 individual images is needed to cover the entire Sun. Taken one after the other, the full image was captured over a period of more than four hours because each tile takes about 10 minutes, including the time for the spacecraft to point from one segment to the next.

In total, the final image contains more than 83 million pixels in a 9148 x 9112 pixel grid. For comparison, this image has a resolution that is ten times better than what a 4K TV screen can display.

You can zoom in on the image here to see how remarkably detailed it is.

Cherry Blossoms at a Tea Plantation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2022

overhead view of cherry trees blossoming at a tea plantation

Stunning drone photo of cherry trees blossoming at a tea plantation in Fujian, China taken by afun阿方. This looks like a still frame from an animated movie…just stunning.

Slime Molds!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2022

macro photograph of slime molds

macro photograph of slime molds

macro photograph of slime molds

macro photograph of slime molds

I have been a fan of slime molds ever since I read about them in Steven Johnson’s Emergence; they are fascinating. From a NY Times excerpt of Johnson’s book:

The slime mold spends much of its life as thousands of distinct single-celled units, each moving separately from its other comrades. Under the right conditions, those myriad cells will coalesce again into a single, larger organism, which then begins its leisurely crawl across the garden floor, consuming rotting leaves and wood as it moves about. When the environment is less hospitable, the slime mold acts as a single organism; when the weather turns cooler and the mold enjoys a large food supply, “it” becomes a “they.” The slime mold oscillates between being a single creature and a swarm.

In his ongoing series of photographs, Barry Webb captures these bizarre and exotic creatures. Yet another example of not having to look off-world to find alien life. (via colossal)

The Collected Photography of Roger Deakins

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2022

a dog jumps off of a wall onto the beach

a row of deck chairs sit empty in front of the ocean

an empty chair next to a James Bond sportscar

a seagull faces off with a wooden carving of a bear

It’s no surprise that the cinematographer responsible for some of the beautifully shot films ever made is also an avid and talented photographer. Roger Deakins, who won Oscars for his work on Blade Runner: 2049 and 19171 and shot almost all of the Coen brothers’ films, has published a book of his black & white photography from the last five decades: Roger A. Deakins: Byways.

Although photography has remained one of Roger’s few hobbies, more often it is an excuse for him to spend hours just walking, his camera over his shoulder, with no particular purpose but to observe. Some of the images in this book, such as those from Rapa Nui, New Zealand and Australia, he took whilst traveling with James. Others are images that caught his eye as walked on a weekend, or catching the last of the light at the end of a day’s filming whilst working on projects in cities such as Berlin or Budapest, on Sicario in New Mexico, Skyfall in Scotland and in England on 1917.

Artnet has an interview with Deakins about the collection and his photography.

Looking back through these photos, I wondered if my eye had changed, and I don’t think it has, really. The photographs I took back then are really quite simple; they’re pared down in terms of what’s in the frame. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

  1. Lol, I really want to see a Blade Runner: 1917 now…

A Collection of Unusual Geological Landforms

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2022

a massive rock juts hundreds of feet out of the Earth

a small canyon cuts into the green earth

a vivid blue river meanders through a green valley

The Instagram account Geomorphological Landscapes features some of the more beautiful and unusual natural and geological features our planet has to offer, including inselbergs, caves, murmurations, ice balls, clouds, and river meanders. The account doesn’t stick to strictly natural wonders, but whatever they post is usually worth a look. (via dense discovery)

The Winners of Sony World Photography Awards for 2022

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2022

a woman with skull makeup and wearing a very colorful dress stands in a field of orange flowers

a sumo wrestler throws another wrestler out of the ring while the judge carefully watches

several people work to build a brick wall

a woman rides a bicycle filled with flowers on the back past a painting of flowers on a wall

tall buildings rise out of the clouds

The Sony World Photography Awards have announced the winners of their national and regional competitions. As usual with these awards, there’s a bunch of great work in here. I’ve selected a few of my favorites above — from top to bottom, Sergio Carrasco, Chin Leong Teo, Kazi Arifuzzaman, Thanh Nguyen Phuc, and Wonyoung Choi. View the rest of the winning images here. (via colossal)

The Winners of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2022

a fox huddles against the cold

the jungle covers a house except where there's a doorway

some nats use their bodies as a bridge to cross a watery chasm

a seal about to catch a penguin

The winning photos in the World Nature Photography Awards for 2021 were recently unveiled and it is always such a pleasure and balm to see how well these photographers capture the beauty of the natural world and the creatures who dwell in it. As always, I’ve included some of my favorites above — from top to bottom, photos by Vince Burton, Gautam Kamat Bambolkar, Chin Leong Teo, and Amos Nachoum. (via in focus)

For What It’s Worth

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2022

sphere of metal next to a mine

sphere of metal next to a mine

sphere of metal next to a mine

diamond gemstone next to a mine

For his project For What It’s Worth, Dillon Marsh created 1:1 scale visualizations of the minerals extracted from South African mines and placed them in photos of the mines themselves. From top to bottom above, a sphere of the 284,000 metric tonnes of copper extracted from the O’Kiep mine, a sphere of the 9500 metric tonnes of gold from the Free State Gold Field, a sphere of 3850 metric tonnes of platinum extracted in total in South Africa since 1924, and a gemstone of the 7.6 million carats of diamonds extracted from the Koffiefontein Mine.

The diamond in particular, which you might not be able to see in that photo (it’s on a vertical stand right in front of the massive hole), underscores just how tiny the amount of material pulled out of these massive mines is, especially when you factor in all the manpower, machinery, injuries, fatalities, and environmental damage related to mining. All that for a bit of shine. (via clive thompson)

The Winners of 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2022

Comet Neowise over a foggy landscape

overhead view of ocean shallows

a snow-covered mountain in the fog

overhead view of a river delta

All of the winners and shortlisted entries of the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year contest look fantastic, but I managed to pull out a few favorites. From top to bottom, photos by Tanmay Sapkal, Wayne Sorensen, Takashi Nakazawa, and Tom Putt.

You can view the winners online, or in PDF form.

AI Creates Photorealistic Portraits of Cartoon Characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2022

a photorealistic portrait of Moe from The Simpsons

a photorealistic portrait of Mirabel from Encanto

a photorealistic portrait of Dash from The Incredibles

a photorealistic portrait of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons

a photorealistic portrait of Carl from Up

Using AI image processing software, Hidreley Diao creates photorealistic portraits of familiar cartoon characters. The one of Moe from The Simpsons is kind of amazing — he’s got the look of a long-time character actor who’s developed so much depth over the years that he starts getting bigger roles and everyone’s like, this guy is actually kind of enigmatic and attractive and fantastic.

You can find more of his efforts on Instagram, where he also makes AI-assisted portraits of people we don’t have photos of (e.g. Michelangelo) and fictional people (e.g. Hercules and the Statue of Liberty).

See also the “Reverse Toonification” of Pixar Characters and What Homer Simpson Would Look Like in Real Life.

Hold That Parking Spot!

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2022

In major US metropolitan areas like Boston and Chicago that see significant winter snowfall, there’s a tradition of saving one’s shoveled-out street parking space with an object or objects that indicate to others that they should park elsewhere. After a big January storm, the Chicago Tribune posted a collection of photos of the best “parking dibs” in the city.

a toy car parked in a shoveled-out parking spot

a crutch and a milkcrate placed in a shoveled-out parking spot

See also The Pittsburgh Parking Chair.

I’m Not a Look-Alike!

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2022

black & white photo of two unrelated people who look alike

black & white photo of two unrelated people who look alike

black & white photo of two unrelated people who look alike

black & white photo of two unrelated people who look alike

black & white photo of two unrelated people who look alike

For his project “I’m not a look-alike!”, François Brunelle finds and photographs pairs of people who are unrelated but who look like twins.

See also Find Your Museum Doppelganger and Identical Strangers. (via life is so beautiful)

Winners of the Environmental Photographer of the Year 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2022

a boy wearing a gas mask connected to a potted plant

a room full of high-tech blue tubes

an overhead view of a house surrounded by flood waters

The winning entries in the Environmental Photographer of the Year for 2021 highlight the ways in which our planet’s climate is changing and how humans are (and are not) adapting to those changes. From top to bottom, photos by Kevin Ochieng Onyango, Simone Tramonte, and Michele Lapini. (via dense discovery)

Female Bolivian Skateboarders Shred in Traditional Dress

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2022

a group of Bolivian women skateboard in traditional clothing

a Bolivian woman in traditional dress stands on a skateboard

a Bolivian woman in traditional dress stands holding a skateboard

Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr travelled to Bolivia and photographed the members of ImillaSkate, a group of Aymara and Quechua women who skateboard, often in traditional cholita clothing. From a slideshow of photos by Dörr in El Pais (translated from Spanish by Google):

I traveled to Cochabamba in September and was struck by the strong prejudice that exists in Bolivian society against indigenous people. There are medical cholitas or lawyers there who radically change their way of dressing if they go to the city and you hardly see young cholitas. It is a culture that is being lost. However, these women, beyond emboldening girls with sport, show their pride in being cholitas.

Here’s a short documentary about ImillaSkate with English subtitles and you can follow more of Dörr’s work on Instagram. See also the Girls of Guanabara.

A Close-Up Photo of Comet Leonard by an Amateur Astronomer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2022

Comet Leonard

Using a composite of 25 different shots done over a period of 12 minutes in his backyard, amateur astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy created this stunning image of Comet Leonard. From PetaPixel:

Processing comet images is a challenge because even in the span of 12 minutes, the comet drifts across the frame relative to the background stars,” McCarthy tells PetaPixel. “Due to the comet’s motion, it has to be stacked differently. I tell the software to stack the images based on the comet position and star positions separately, which is then combined together to produce an image with the comet and stars both sharp.

See also this image of Leonard and McCarthy’s colorful photo of a full moon.

The Photos of the Year for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2021

tornado debris is visible from inside a movie theater

a ship called the Ever Given is stuck in the Suez Canal

terrorist storm the Capitol Building on January 6

a man dressed in an elaborate costume get a vaccine shot

a group of kids play soccer in front of a setting sun

a young child with Covid on a respirator

a school band rehearses, each in an individual airtight pod

a monkey walks though a scale model of a city

volcanic ash almost completely covers a house

citizens protesting the coup in Myanmar firing slingshots

Simone Biles flying high in the air above the vault

It is difficult to separate 2021 from the previous year — Covid, social & political unrest, and the climate crisis bind them together in my memory. I think, at the beginning of this year, many people thought it was going to be better year than the last, but instead it was 2020: The Sequel. Meaghan Looram summed the year up succinctly for the NY Times:

The year 2021 opened with the promise of vaccines, and the belief that we would all return to “normal” after the tumultuous year of the pandemic. But the year instead took off with an insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, and saw a summer of carefree gatherings derailed by a fast-spreading virus. Governments fell, democracies were challenged, and climate-related destruction was unleashed, all while the casualties of the pandemic continued to amass. The vaccine saved some lives, but human passions, hopes and fears did their usual work to create a year that was anything but calm, and is ending with the prospect of a new variant upending plans once again.

As I do every year, I went through a bunch of photos-of-the-year lists and picked up some favorites; they are embedded above. The first photo, taken by amateur photographer Shawn Triplett with his iPhone in the aftermath of the Kentucky tornados, wasn’t included in any of the lists but it was probably my favorite of the year. There’s something about the framing, the emptiness, the destruction, and the screen-mediated chaos vs. order that is the perfect metaphor for how things are feeling right now.

You can check out more of the year’s best photos here:

The photos above were taken by (from top to bottom): Shawn Triplett, satellite imagery, Shannon Stapleton, Jouni Porsanger, Siphiwe Sibeko, Callaghan O’Hare, Don Seabrook, Alexey Pavlishak, Emilio Morenatti, Anonymous, and Doug Mills.

Tim Flach’s Beautiful Bird Photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2021

group of flamingos on a black background

two ducks

closeup of a bird with a mustache

a mottled blue bird's egg

a brightly colored bird in flight

Oh, Tim Flach takes wonderful photos of birds, birbs, and everything in-between (including an avian dead ringer for Hercule Poirot). He recently published a book of this work called Birds and you can of course keep up with his stuff on Instagram. (via jodi)

The Northern Lights Photographer of the Year for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2021

intense pink and yellow aurora in the night sky

light blue aurora in the sky over a group of snow flocked trees

green aurora flows over a steep mountain peak

Check out some of the best aurora borealis and aurora australis photos taken in 2021 in the results of the 2021 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year competition.1 My three favorites (embedded above) were taken by Larryn Rae, Marc Adamus, and Frøydis Dalheim. (thx, caroline)

  1. Off-topic, but I covered this contest last year and they used the same nonspecific URL for this year’s winners as they did for last year’s. Which means that last year’s winning photos are nowhere to be found and in 2022 the 2021 photos will also disappear. Don’t do this!

Award-Winning Photos from an Action & Adventure Sports Photo Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2021

a climber jumps away from a cliff face

a person in a kayak shoots out of a massive wave in the rapids

dozens of paragliders fly in the air over the mountains

a man skateboards on a curved rock face next to a stream in the forest

The winners of the 2021 Red Bull Illume Image Quest photography contest have been announced. You can take a look at the winners, runners-up, and finalists in the contest — so much impressive work here. Photos above are by Will Saunders, Rod Hill, Andreas Busslinger, and Adrien Petit. (via in focus)

Otherworldly Single Malt Scotch

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2021

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

For his series Vanishing Spirits: The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch, photographer Ernie Buttons photographed the creatively lit bottoms of glasses emptied of their single malt Scotch whisky. The results look like alien worlds.

These remind me a lot of Christopher Jonassen’s frying pan worlds and Nadine Schlieper’s & Robert Pufleb’s photos of pancakes that look like moons. (via moss & fog)

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)