Photography Science

The ‘Pillars of Creation’ Glow in Remarkable Detail in a Groundbreaking Image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope

December 19, 2022

Kate Mothes

A photograph taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the "Pillars of Creation."

“Pillars of Creation.” All images courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

In a small region within the vast Eagle Nebula—a 6,500 light-year journey from our solar system in the constellation Serpens—the iconic “Pillars of Creation” appear in a ghostly formation. Made of cool hydrogen gas and dust, these incubators for new stars are dense celestial structures that have survived longer than their surroundings. Ultraviolet light from incredibly hot newborn stars gradually erodes the surrounding space and illuminates the ethereal surfaces of the pillars and the streams of gas they emit.

Since July, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has released numerous photographs of the cosmos in unprecedented detail. To process this image, scientists combined captures taken with the telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which brought different elements into focus. Near-infrared light emphasizes the stars, including thousands of newly-formed orange spheres that hover around the columns. The saturated hues around the interstellar formations are visible thanks to the mid-infrared contribution, which highlights the diffused orange dust around the top, deep indigo of the densest regions, and bright neutral color of the pillars. Lava-red spots on the upper parts of the spires contain young, embedded stars that will continue to form for millions of years.

See the full 47.59-megapixel photograph on the James Webb website. (via PetaPixel)


A detail of photograph taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the "Pillars of Creation."

A detail of a photograph taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the "Pillars of Creation."




Photography Science

Photographer Ulric Collette Splices Portraits of Family Members into Uncanny Composites

December 15, 2022

Grace Ebert

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Brother and sister, Jean-Philippe, 29, and Véronique, 27. All images © Ulric Collette, shared with permission

Ulric Collette takes a scientific approach to family photos with his Genetic Portraits series. Since 2008, Collette has spliced images of one side of a face with that of a relative, juxtaposing their superficial traits with the inherited. The composites are both disorienting and revealing as they capture the continuity of bone structures and other similarities, in addition to differences like eye color or subtle shifts in the shape of lips or cheeks.

Each portrait varies in resemblance, with some, like the recent portrait of brothers Francis and Jerome, appearing to be a single person at first glance. Others require more comparison to find the similitude behind clear contrasts in hair or age. “Having photographed my daughter with her grandmother,” the Quebec City-photographer shares, “the result is astonishing as they look so much alike on this portrait, one could believe that it is the same person photographed at 50 years interval.”

In the decade Collette has been working on the series, he’s garnered quite a bit of interest from scientists and researchers, and the project was recently on view in the University of Wisconsin’s genetics department. Explore dozens of the portraits on the project site and Instagram. You also might enjoy this collection of doppelgängers. (via Kottke)


A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Son and mother, Kristof, 19, and Madineg, 41

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Son and father, Nathan, 7, and Ulric, 29

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Sisters, Roxane, 22, and Jill, 25

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Brothers, Eric, 39, and Dany, 31

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Grandmother and granddaughter, Ginette, 61, and Ismaelle, 12

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Son and mother, Ludwig, 33, and Laurence, 59

A spliced photographic portrait of two family members

Brothers, Francis, 37, and Jerome, 39




Photographer Masayuki Oki Focuses a Humorous Lens on Japan’s Feline Residents

December 9, 2022

Kate Mothes

A photograph of a motorized scooter with two cats sitting in the seat, appearing as if they will drive it.

All images © Masayuki Oki, shared with permission

The archipelago of Japan consists of more than 6,800 islands, of which around 280 are inhabited, and in a few places, known as neko-shima or “cat islands,” felines vastly outnumber the human residents. Fishing villages like the one on Aoshima, the most well-known of around a dozen cat islands, introduced the creatures in the early 20th century to combat rodent infestations. Their prolific progeny, perched on walls and scampering underfoot, have been a continuous source of fascination for photographer Masayuki Oki.

For the past eight years, Oki has documented clowders of cats in his home city of Tokyo and on islands around the nation, focusing on the feral animals’ interactions. Viewed through a an anthropomorphic lens, the images capture playful pounces and awkward entanglements with humor and a knack for good timing.

You can follow Oki’s feline adventures on his blog and Instagram. He releases annual calendars featuring some of the year’s best photographs, and he also updates a YouTube channel with short videos of furball shenanigans.


A photograph of two cats, one walking in the foreground and the other looking about ready to attack its mate.

A photograph of a black cat climbing down a vending machine full of drinks.

A photograph of two cats sitting on a box, one massaging the other's back.

A photograph of a cat carrying a fish in its mouth.  A photograph of a cat grabbing at a dog's leash in the street.

A photograph of a black-and-white cat playing with a flower in a pot.

A photograph of a black cat embracing or attacking a white cat.

A white cat sitting on the top of the wall, meowing at the photographer. A photograph of two cats, one with its paw on the shoulder of the other.




Trails of Light Illuminate Sculptural Bonsai Trees in Vitor Schietti’s Long-Exposure Photographs

December 8, 2022

Kate Mothes

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

All images © Vitor Schietti, shared with permission

Cultivated for centuries in Japan, bonsai originated in China at least 4,000 years ago, treasured as symbols of balance and harmony and admired for their aesthetic beauty. Vitor Schietti’s ongoing project Impermanent Sculptures continues to tap into the strength of the trees in a photographic series of illuminated specimens.

Long-exposure shots capture bright streams from sparklers that contrast against deep, dark backgrounds and speak to the relationship between the immediacy of light, the ephemerality of the photograph, and the enduring nature of the lifeforms. “The small-scale representation of their grown, natural counterparts allow my strokes of sparkles to reach further through the trees’ shapes,” Schietti explains. Bonsai provide an opportunity to illuminate what he describes as the “soul, the source of life,” of these living forms, sharing that the process of creating and tending to one of the miniature botanical specimens reveals a unique human connection to nature.

You can find more of Schietti’s work on his website and Instagram.


A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree. A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.

A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.  A photograph of light illuminating a bonsai tree.




The Photography Stories Colossal Readers Loved Most in 2022

December 8, 2022


As we near the end of 2022, we’re reflecting on the hundreds of articles published on Colossal this year. Today, we’re taking a look at the photographs and series readers loved most. These 12 articles capture a breadth of subject matter across continents, from uncanny doppelgängers and self-portraits in disguise to dramatic winter waves and ancient trees.

For more of 2022’s highlights, check out similar lists in artcraft, design, and our favorite books of the year.


A photo of two polar bears in an abandoned building

Image © Dmitry Kokh

Arresting Photos Document the Polar Bears Occupying an Abandoned Weather Station in Russia

Set against a backdrop of dried grass, rusted tanks, and debris, a photo series by Dmitry Kokh centers on a small group of polar bears that took over an abandoned meteorological station.


A black and white portrait of two women who look alike

Image © François Brunelle

I’m Not a Look-Alike: Hundreds of Unrelated Doppelgängers Sit for François Brunelle’s Uncanny Portraits

In I’m Not a Look-Alike, Montréal-based photographer François Brunelle brings together two unrelated people who resemble each other so much that they could be twins.


A photo of glowing trees and landscape

Image © Sriram Murali

Billions of Fireflies Light Up an Indian Wildlife Reserve in Rare Footage Captured by Sriram Murali

Sriram Murali captured a rare gathering of billions of these insects at the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in western Tamil Nadu, India.


A photo of sand pillars on a beach

Image © Joshua Nowicki

Strong Winds Sculpt Frozen Sand into Otherworldly Pillars on a Lake Michigan Beach

Photographer Joshua Nowicki captured dozens ice-laden pillars, created by powerful winds eroding frozen sand and carving dozens of towering shapes haphazardly placed along the shore.


An aerial photo of aircraft on the landscape

Image © Bernhard Lang

Aerial Photos by Bernhard Lang Capture the Largest Aircraft Boneyard in the World

Housing the largest aircraft and missile facility around the globe, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is a trove of aviation history, and photographer Bernhard Lang visited the site to document the aircraft from above.


An image of nebula and stars

Carina Nebula

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope Reveals Astounding, Unprecedented Views of the Universe

Back in July, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope unveiled its first-ever collection of high-resolution color images capturing an exceptional amount of detail about the universe.


A photo of a dramatic wave

Image © Trevor Pottelberg

Forceful Waves Rip Across Lake Erie in Tempestuous Photos by Trevor Pottelberg

When fall and winter storms send turbulent waves across Lake Erie, Canadian photographer Trevor Pottelberg documents the volatile eruptions that burst from the water’s surface.


An image of a woman wearing glasses and a patterned garment that blends in with the backdrop

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Vibrant Textiles and Repurposed Eyewear Camouflage the Subjects of Thandiwe Muriu’s Celebratory Portraiture

From chunky hair beads and rollers to sink strainers and brake pedals, Nairobi-based photographer Thandiwe Muriu finds fashionable use for ordinary objects.


A black and white image of a massive tree

Image © Beth Moon

Majestic Photos Capture the Dwindling Population of Madagascar’s Ancient Baobab Trees

Bay Area photographer Beth Moon has been documenting baobabs since 2006, capturing the magnificent trees throughout Madagascar, Senegal, and South Africa.


An image of a crocodile with babies on its back

Image © Dhritiman Mukherjee

Over 100 Young Crocodiles Find Refuge on Their Father’s Back in India’s Chambal River

Photographer and conservationist Dhritiman Mukherjee visited the National Chambal Sanctuary southeast of New Dehli where he captured striking images of a father swimming through the murky river with more than 100 young clinging to his back.


An image of a person wearing a costume of colorful plastic jugs

Image © Stéphan Gladieu

Photographer Stéphan Gladieu Documents the Congolese Street Children Turning Waste into Wonder

In the face of this ecological disaster, the young people of Kinshasa began to repurpose waste into traditional religious costumes, which artist Stéphan Gladieu documents in the Homo Détritus series.


A photo of a mossy, gnarled forest

Image © Neil Burnell

Moss Drapes from Trees in Ethereal Photographs of England’s Forests by Neil Burnell

The remarkable atmosphere of Dartmoor’s forests are captured by Devon-based photographer Neil Burnell, who focuses on the mystical, otherworldly environments through all four seasons.




Aerial Photos Showcase the Annual Flamingo Migration that Transforms India’s Pulicat Lake into a Vibrant Spectacle

December 5, 2022

Grace Ebert

An aerial photo of flamingos

All images © Raj Mohan, shared with permission

Each January, Pulicat Lake in Tamil Nadu, India, harbors tens of thousands of lanky, pink-feathered birds that gather in the warm waters during their annual migration. Approximately 20 flocks of flamingos land in the region in early November and stay until May, transforming the 750-square kilometers of brackish lagoons into breeding grounds for the long-legged creatures.

Photographer Raj Mohan documented these temporary settlements in a series of aerial images that capture the birds’ sprawling, even bizarre formations. The avians dot the landscape, congregate in heart-shaped groups, and align in long, perfect diagonals, seemingly choreographed arrangements visible only from above.

Mohan’s images were taken during what’s known as the annual flamingo festival, which “promote(s) tourism at Pulicat. Several bird photography contests, environment education sensitization programs, school excursions, etc., are organized to increase awareness,” he shares on Peta Pixel. “This attracts a large number of bird watchers and photographers from different places.” In addition to the spectacle they create, the flamingos also help to control the otherwise rampant algae growth in the lake and prevent the need for human intervention.

A corporate professional by day, Mohan is based in Chennai but currently spending his time in Bangalore. Travel has always been his preferred way of exploring India’s natural diversity, and you can find more of his work on Instagram. For another glimpse of flamingo migration, head to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula with Claudio Contreras Koob.


An aerial photo of flamingos

An aerial photo of flamingos

Two aerial photos of flamingos

An aerial photo of flamingos

Two aerial photos of flamingos

An aerial photo of flamingos

An aerial photo of flamingos