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Photography Science

Tiny Ice Crystals Simulate a Halo Around the Sun in Photograph by Michael Schneider

December 12, 2019

Grace Ebert

Photo by Michael Schneider, shared with permission

On a November trip to the Arosa mountains in the Swiss Alps, Michael Schneider snapped a photo using his iPhone 11. The Zurich-based photographer and writer says the image he captured as the fog dissipated shows small ice crystals in the clouds, which break up the sunlight. The crystals’ insides reflect the sun, which is then broken again as it leaves the inside chamber, resulting in the halo of light.

Gizmodo’s Mika McKinnon elucidated the phenomenon when a similar shot was taken a few years ago.

Ice halos happen when tiny crystals of ice are suspended in the sky. The crystals can be high up in cirrus clouds, or closer to the ground as diamond dust or ice fog. Like raindrops scatter light into rainbows, the crystals of ice can reflect and refract light, acting as mirrors or prisms depending on the shape of the crystal and the incident angle of the light.

You can find an analysis by Mark McCaughrean of the atmospheric optics at work in the image below. Keep up with Schneider’s travel writing and the frozen landscapes he frequents on his Instagram. (via Kottke)

Photo annotation by Mark McCaughrean

 

 



Photography Science

Colored Micrographs Magnify Pollen Seeds, Plant Cells, and Leaf Structures in Photographs by Rob Kesseler

December 5, 2019

Grace Ebert

Medicago arborea. All photographs (c) Rob Kesseler, shared with permission

Using scanning electron microscopy and a mix of microscopic, scientific, digital, and manual processes, artist Rob Kesseler develops colored micrographs of the intricate patterns within pollen and seed grains, plant cells, and leaf structures. The highly magnified photographs feature specifics of cellular composition that are undetectable without magnification.

Kesseler tells Colossal that as a child, his father gifted him a microscope, marking a pivotal moment in his creative career. “What the microscope gave me was an unprecedented view of nature, a second vision,” he writes, “and awareness that there existed another world of forms, colours and patterns beyond what I could normally see.” The artist says his use of color is inspired by the time he spends researching and observing, and that just like nature, he employs it to attract attention.

Kesseler calls the intersection between art and science “a process and a product, a morphogenetic synthesis of two expansive cultures and a way of examining the world through a series of filters.” And he has hope for the relationship between the two disciplines, saying, “I like to think we are entering a new age where after a century of separation, artists and scientists are again working together, sharing ideas that reflect our age.”

Currently the chair of Arts, Design and Science at Central Saint Martins, Kesseler also is a fellow of the Linnean Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Microscopical Society. His most recent work includes a project with journalist Mathew Tucker of the BBC and a collaboration with Dr. Louise Hughes at Oxford Instruments. Both deal with the impacts of climate change on the plant world.

You can find more of Kesseler’s painstakingly created photographs on his Instagram and in his books featuring pollen, seeds, and fruit. (thnx, Mike!)

Santolina chamaecyparissus

Avena fatua

Scabiosa cretica

Salix caprea

Daucus carota

Anemone hortensis

Viburnum

Allium

 

 



Design Science

Returning to Roots: A New Book Highlights How Indigenous Practices Can Create More Sustainable Technology

December 3, 2019

Grace Ebert

A young fisherman walks under a living root bridge at Mawlynnong village, India. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya’s jungles the Khasi people have used the trainable roots of rubber trees to grow Jingkieng Dieng Jri living root bridges over rivers for centuries. Copyright: © Amos Chapple

Self-described designer, activist, academic, and author Julia Watson is trying to quash the boundary between native practices and technology in a new book that explores the ways indigenous wisdom can combat the high-tech approach to design and fighting climate change. In Lo—TEK Design by Radical Indigenism, Watson shares knowledge that transcends generations and cultures in an attempt to debunk the myth that indigenous approaches are primitive and far removed from current conceptions of technology. Throughout its more than 400 pages, the book explores ideas from 20 countries, including Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, India, and Indonesia, about how to tackle more sustainable technology and design. It also contains a forward from anthropologist Wade Davis.

Watson founded Julia Watson Studio, an urban design studio, in addition to co-founding “A Future Studio,” described as a collective of conscious designers. She also teaches urban design at Harvard and Columbia University. Lo—TEK is scheduled to be released this month by Taschen. If you liked this, check out the recently published Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild.

 

A view over the sacred Mahagiri rice terraces, a small portion of the one thousand year old agrarian system known as the subak, which is unique to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Copyright: © David Lazar

 

In the Southern Wetlands of Iraq, an entire Ma’dan house known as a mudhif, which is built entirely of qasab reed without using mortar or nails, can be taken down and re-erected in a day. Copyright: © Jassim Alasadi

 

Built by the Tofinu, the city of Ganvie meaning ‘we survived’ floats on Lake Nokoué surrounded by a radiating reef system of twelve thousand acadja fish pens. Copyright: © Iwan Baan

 

 

 

 



Art History Science

A Multicolored Library of the World’s Ochre Pigments Archived by Heidi Gustafson

November 24, 2019

Andrew LaSane

Medicinal and industrial ochres being processed and archived, Greece. All Images: Heidi Gustafson

Washington-based artist and researcher Heidi Gustafson forages, processes, and catalogs natural mineral samples for the Early Futures Ocher Archive. Ranging in color based on its elemental structure, ochre is crushed into a powder and used in various applications from art to medicine. With over 550 samples, Gustafson’s ever-growing archive has become a collaborative project with contributions from archaeologists, scientists, and creatives from around the world.

As each sample enters the collection, it is labeled with a corresponding number. In a notebook, Gustafson records where the ochre is from, who sourced or collected it, any historic or contemporary uses, and other relevant information. Gustafson grinds the iron-rich ochre into pigments, which she sells to artists and also uses for her own work. Processed samples are added to glass vials and organized by region or dominate mineral type. Gustafson also considers the material for its artistic, spiritual, and scientific properties. “More importantly, I build a relationship to the materials,” she tells Colossal. “I’m trying to understand their unique behaviors, the microbial communities they host and support, their tonal ranges, their historical uses and many other diverse features.”

Pigment studies, Left – foraged pigments from northern Washington, USA, Right- foraged pigments from Hormuz, Iran.

The archive was officially formed in 2017 when Gustafson relocated to the Pacific Northwest, but working with the material is more than a hobby or intellectual pursuit—it is a calling. After having a dream about ochre, she initially wrote it off. Other experiences and anxieties about climate change inspired her to research exactly what ochre was and what it was used for. “I realized that ochre and pigments were at the heart of art and aesthetic experience,” Gustafson tells Colossal, adding that the mineral has been linked to complex mental processing in modern homo sapiens. “Protecting ochre’s vast capacities and impact on human creativity, feels like Earth’s mandate to me,” Gustafson continued. “I didn’t ‘come up’ with the idea for this project, it came to me and I felt responsible to do my best to understand and listen to that call.”

To tag along on foraging trips and for updates on the archive, follow Heidi Gustafson on Instagram. To shop for pigment sets and other products from the project or to contribute samples of your own, visit the Early Futures website.

Gathering orange ochre, Oregon, USA.

Ochre contribution, protective isibomvu used by healers, from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Gathering blue ochre, with artist Scott Sutton, Oregon, USA.

Ochre contributions, gathered by Caro Ross, England.

Pigment study, red ochre, world-wide.

Ochre Archive (close-up)

Gathering yellow ochre, Arizona, USA.

Gathering various ochre, British Columbia, Canada.

 

 



Photography Science

‘Sea-Thru’ Allows Scientists to Accurately Recalibrate the True Colors of Sea Life

November 21, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Two researchers at the University of Haifa have developed Sea-Thru, an algorithmic method for color-correcting underwater images. The tool allows scientists—and laypeople—to understand and contextualize the “true” colors of aquatic phenomena like fish, coral, and anemones. Sea-Thru was developed by Derya Akkaynak and Tali Treibitz and is a more accurate re-reading of colors, rather than editing tones artificially in Photoshop.

In the paper’s abstract, the duo explain that the way colors come through underwater is not uniform (which is why the aforementioned Photoshop doctoring isn’t accurate). Rather, the distance from the lens and the reflectivity of the captured object determines how its colors appear. So, the way sand appears is differently modulated by the water than, say the scales on a fish passing above the sand. Sea-Thru uses an algorithm to accurately and efficiently adjust images taken underwater.

See the algorithm in action in the video below from Scientific American, and read Akkaynak and Treibitz’s full paper here. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 

 



Art Science

Our House is Flooding: a Semi-Submerged Life-Size Home Floats Down the River Thames

November 15, 2019

Christopher Jobson

Photographs by Guy Reece, courtesy of Extinction Rebellion

Over the weekend of November 10, activist group Extinction Rebellion launched a dramatic installation in London’s River Thames. “Our House is Flooding” was comprised of a life-size brick house, complete with flood lights, a security camera, and a satellite dish, sunken into the British capital’s major waterway.

“Sadly, climate-change is something that affects every one of us. We want to respectfully raise awareness of the severity of the impending human-made disaster,” said Katey Burak and Rob Higgs, who co-built the house. “We wanted to make something that people can visually connect to, whilst leaning on the government and the experts to make the changes that need to be made. Until they make the big legal and financial changes, it’s very hard for people like me or you to make significant changes to protect ourselves and the world around us.”

The impact of climate change on the oceans is inextricably linked to the safety and health of land-bound humans and animals as well. In another chilling example of the immediate effects of climate change and rising sea levels, the world’s foremost art event, the Venice Biennale, was shut down just a few days after “Our House is Flooding”, due to damaging sea surges and floods in the fragile Italian city.

Keep up with Extinction Rebellion’s actions that fight for ecological and social justice on Instagram and Twitter, and find ways to get involved on the organization’s global website. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 



Photography Science

Spectacular Mushrooms and Fungi Documented by Photographer Alison Pollack

October 28, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Cookeina sulcipes, Tropical Goblet. Location: Colombia

Photographer Alison Pollack’s subject of choice is usually hiding in plain sight. To find the minuscule but magnificent fungi and Myxomycetes that she shares on @marin_mushrooms, Pollack drops down to hands and knees with a magnifying glass. “The smaller they are, the more challenging they are to photograph, but I absolutely love the challenge,” Pollack tells Colossal. “My goal is to show people the beauty of these tiny treasures that are all around the forest but barely visible unless you look very very closely.”

Pollack, who is a mathematician by training and “computer geek” by trade (she is now retired from an environmental consulting career), relishes the technical and creative challenges of being a self-taught photographer. She seeks to create compelling artistic beauty with her images while also depicting scientific details in sharp focus. Pollack explains that focus stacking allows her to capture the depth and texture of her small subjects, sometimes incorporating upwards of one hundred photos to create a single image.

To increase the breadth and depth of her discoveries, Pollack travels nationally—and sometimes abroad—to find more fungi and Myxomycetes during her native California’s dry season. She also invests in relationships with other mushroomers, attending weekend gatherings to learn from her peers. “I would love to be able to travel more to different parts of the world to look for and photograph mushrooms and myxos,” Pollack tells Colossal. “Australia and New Zealand, and tropical regions, have mushrooms and myxos that really call to me, and I hope to be able to travel to those areas some day. But every walk in my local woods is a mycelial adventure!”

You can explore more of Pollack’s previous fungi finds on Colossal and follow along with her latest discoveries via Instagram. Pollack also offers prints of her photographs; if interested, contact her on Instagram as well.

Didymium squamulosum. Location: Mt Tamalpais, CA. Composite photo to show detail on both the stipe and cap with sporotheca.

Ascocoryne sarcoides and Trichia. Location: Trout Lake, WA

Willkommlangea reticulata. Location: Fairbanks, AK

Phillipsia domingensis. Location: Colombia

Physarum. Location: Fairbanks, AK

Crepidotus crocophyllus. Location: Pt Reyes, CA

Physarum. Location: Mt Tamalpais, CA

Leocarpus fragilis. Location: Fairbanks, AK

Mycena strobilinoidea and Clavulina. Location: Gifford Pinchot State Park, PA