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Art Illustration

Layers of Realistic and Invented Winged Creatures Combine in Surreal Illustrations by Vorja Sánchez

December 13, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

"Birds Dialogue 2," Mixed media on paper

“Birds Dialogue 2,” Mixed media on paper

Vorja Sánchez (previously) combines imaginative interpretations of birds, wolves, and hybrid creatures into surreal paintings and mixed media works that are diverse in both style and form. In the follow up to his popular work Bird Dialogues, the Spanish illustrator layers winged animals of all colors and breeds, presenting realistic drawings alongside half-formed birds that spring from the deep corners of his brain. You can see more recent illustrations of real and invented creatures, in addition to less public murals and less formal sketches, on Instagram and Facebook.

"Birds Dialogue 2" (detail), Mixed media on paper

“Birds Dialogue 2” (detail), Mixed media on paper

"Birds Dialogue 2" (detail), Mixed media on paper

“Birds Dialogue 2” (detail), Mixed media on paper

"Organic Haku," Ink, watercolor and colored pencil on paper.

“Organic Haku,” Ink, watercolor and colored pencil on paper.

"Organic Haku" (detail), Ink, watercolor and colored pencil on paper.

“Organic Haku” (detail), Ink, watercolor and colored pencil on paper.

"Mirada orgánica," Pencil and colored pencil on old paper.

“Mirada orgánica,” Pencil and colored pencil on old paper.

"Frutos Rojos," Ink and watercolor on paper

“Frutos Rojos,” Ink and watercolor on paper

"Frutos Rojos" (detail), Ink and watercolor on paper

“Frutos Rojos” (detail), Ink and watercolor on paper

 

 



Photography

Winners and Honorable Mentions of the 2018 National Geographic Photography Competition

December 11, 2018

Andrew LaSane

Grand Prize & 1st Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Jassen Todorov / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. Thousands of Volkswagen and Audi cars sit idle in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert. Models manufactured from 2009 to 2015 were designed to cheat emissions tests mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Following the scandal, Volkswagen recalled millions of cars. By capturing scenes like this one, I hope we will all become more conscious of and more caring toward our beautiful planet.

A panel of National Geographic photo editors have chosen the winners of the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest from a pool of over 10,000 entries. The grand prize winner, and top pick for the “Places” group is an aerial shot (above) by Jassen Todorov of a Volkswagen and Audi graveyard at the Southern California Logistics Airport in the Mojave Desert. The striking image shows a fraction of the 11 million cars that Volkswagen fitted with devices that could alter performance during emissions tests by the EPA. Todorov’s image uses a plane for scale to visually demonstrate a story of environmental issues. As the winner, Todorov earned $5000 and a feature on National Geographic’s Instagram.

Submitted across three categories (People, Places, and Wildlife), the other winning images and honorable mentions span the globe in terms of content and photographers. To read more about each image, check out their respective captions below, and head over to the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest website.

1st Place (People). Photograph and caption by Mia Collis / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. I was looking to do a series of portraits showing people wearing their Sunday best when I made this photo of David Muyochokera. It was taken on his last Sunday working as a photographer at Weekend Studio, in Kibera—a large shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya. My friend Peter, a local resident, had pointed me to the photo studio just as I was about to leave the area. It was a stunning space, with whimsical backdrops and natural light coming through the doorway. David had worked there for 37 years, but Weekend Studio was about to close permanently. Phone cameras were so common now, he said, and fewer people wanted studio portraits. David planned to retire and return home to the countryside. I was troubled by the studio’s imminent closure, so I eventually took over the rent. A portrait of David now hangs at Weekend Studio in his memory.

2nd Place (People). Photograph and caption by Todd Kennedy / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. On a family holiday driving from Sydney to Uluru, we stopped at a roadside motel in the small rural township of Nyngan, on the edge of Australia’s outback. The area is in the wheat belt, and it was unusually hot for that time of year—over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit and very dusty. Our daughter, Genie, is seen here enjoying a refreshing bath in a rubber ducky perched on the sink.

3rd Place (People). Photograph and caption by Avishek Das / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A Hindu devotee kisses his newborn baby during the Charak Puja festival in West Bengal, India. Traditional practice calls for the devotee to be pierced with a hook and sometimes swung from a rope. This painful sacrifice is enacted to save their children from anxiety. While covering the festival, I was able to view the religious practice from the perspective of Hindu devotees. I tried to capture the moment of love and bonding between a father and his child—and show a father’s concern for his little son.

2nd Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Nicholas Moir / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A rusting Ford Thunderbird is blanketed by red dust from a supercell thunderstorm in Ralls, Texas. The dry, plowed fields of the Texas Panhandle made easy prey for the storm, which had winds over 90 miles an hour ripping up the topsoil and depositing it farther south. I was forecasting and positioning a team of videographers and photographers on a storm chase in Tornado Alley—this was our last day of a very successful chase, having witnessed 16 tornadoes over 10 days. The target area for a storm initiation was just south of Amarillo, Texas. Once the storm became a supercell, it moved southbound with outflow winds that were easily strong enough to tear up the topsoil and send it into the air.

3rd Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Christian Werner / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. While on assignment for Der Spiegel, we made a road trip through Syria to document the current situation in major cities. When I first entered the Khalidiya district in Homs, I was shocked. I hadn’t seen such large-scale destruction before, and I had been to many destroyed cities. The area around the Khalidiya district was extremely quiet. No city sounds, cars—nothing. Only the chirping of swallows and the wind. We walked down the streets of Khalidiya, but the destruction was so large scale that you couldn’t have the big picture from the point of view on the street—you could only manage it with a view from above. To make this image, I asked a Syrian soldier in charge of the area if I could climb onto a ruin. The soldier agreed, allowing me to climb at my own risk. I climbed up the ruins of a former house—which was full of improvised explosive devices—and took the picture. I was very lucky to take the picture when I was on the rooftop. Without any sign of life, it would have been a dead picture. I can recall the memory vividly.

Honorable mention (Places). Photograph and caption by Rucca Y Ito / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. Japan’s Blue Pond in Biei-cho, Hokkaido, has become very famous for attracting tourists from around the world. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees. This pond, frozen during winter, was artificially made to prevent river contamination from the nearby active volcano, Mount Tokachi. The accumulated pond water contains high levels of minerals, such as those containing aluminum. The alluring view of the blue pond can take one’s breath away. To make this image, I made the exposure longer to capture the way the snow was falling. At the same time, I lit up the strobe for a moment to capture the snowflakes that are reflecting in the foreground. I took as many photos as I could and chose the one I thought had the best balance of the falling snow and the unfocused snowflakes. I wanted to express how time is created in just one moment and, by tying together these moments, history is made.

1st Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Pim Volkers / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. It was early morning when I saw the wildebeests crossing Tanzania’s Mara River. The layering of dust, shade, and sun over the chaos of wildebeests kicking up water gives this picture a sense of mystique and allure. It’s almost like an old painting—I’m still compelled to search the detail of the image to absorb the unreal scene.

2nd Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Jonas Beyer / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A few miles from Qaanaaq (Thule), Greenland, I was on a hike in search of musk oxen when I came upon a group of them. This ox was running on a hillside in deep snow, which exploded underneath it—an amazing sight. The photo came together in a few seconds. I was lucky enough to be at the right spot to observe them frolicking, and then I had the incredible experience of watching them closely for about an hour. I love photographing musk oxen against the wintry landscape: They’re extremely tough Arctic survivors. This photo shows their beauty and their power—and the snow they deal with for about eight months of the year.

3rd Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Alison Langevad / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. As the late-night hours ticked by and my eyelids grew heavy, two southern white rhinoceroses appeared silently from the shadows to drink from a watering hole in South Africa’s Zimanga Game Reserve. On alert, they stood back to back, observing their surroundings before lowering their heads. I felt privileged to share this moment with these endangered animals. While I was well prepared technically, with my camera set correctly on a tripod, I underestimated the emotional impact the magnificent beasts would have on me. I had photographed them months earlier, and now both rhinos sported a new look: They had been dehorned to deter poachers. I had heard about this development but had not yet seen them. I was full of emotion—and horror—that poaching had such a devastating effect. It must have been a hard decision to dehorn their rhinos, and I am grateful for the reserve’s efforts.

 

 



Art Craft

New Ceramics by Heesoo Lee Capture the Ephemeral Beauty of Seasonal Woodlands

December 7, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Artist Heesoo Lee (previously) uses multi-layered techniques to form intricate trees, complete with leaves and branches, that seem to grow out of her functional ceramic vessels. Lee’s careful use of color establishes a seasonal mood in each of her works, some evoking the warm tones and fallen leaves of autumn, while others capture the barren beauty of winter. Each woodland scene is drawn from Lee’s imagination. The artist shares that she happened upon her current style of work by chance: her background is as a painter, and she used clay more as a smooth canvas until one day she was working on a tight deadline and was attempting to repair a broken pot, which inspired her to build three-dimensionally.

Lee explains that she uses translucent porcelain because its “beautiful clarity and color and is the perfect canvas for the bright underglaze and glazes I use.” The artist begins by forming each tree individually, starting with the closest and largest trees as she builds perspective by filling in the background with progressively smaller trunks, each of which is individually formed with a clay coil. Next, for her non-wintry pieces, each leaf is individually formed and applied to create the dense foliage that further increases the sense of depth on the surface of her ceramics. After an initial firing, Lee applies colored details using painted underglaze, which must be applied without overlapping different glazes to prevent discoloration after firing. Lastly, she chooses from a range of finishing glazes, selected depending on the desired effect, like an icy blue vernal pool or clearly defined leaves.

Lee shares that she first came to the United States, looking for freedom and adventure and with little knowledge of English, first living in Berkeley, California. She started re-exploring ceramics outside of the strictures of traditional Korean ceramics, rediscovering her love of the tactile medium after studying painting in college. Lee has been a working artist alongside her partner, a fellow ceramic artist for many years, and cites her time in residence at the Archie Bray Foundation as a seminal experience:

 My work, mostly in medium-range porcelain, expanded beyond painted surfaces, my mainstay for many years. I pushed my work beyond the motifs I had been using for many years–flowers, mostly–and built larger than I had before. I was inspired by my children, the landscape of the places where I lived, and my own childhood in Korea, and reflected these themes in my work. I found that working in a place like the Bray, surrounded by other artists who created a supportive, inviting, and welcoming community, gave me the freedom to grow as an artist.

Lee lives and works in Helena, Montana, where she has a home studio and kiln. You can see more of Lee’s in-progress and finished work on Instagram, and she also keeps her Etsy shop updated with new pieces available for purchase.

 

 



Art

Symbiotic Assemblages by Amy Gross Combine Animals and Insects with Fictionalized Habitats

November 14, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

South Florida-based artist Amy Gross creates hand-embroidered and beaded fiber sculptures that contain colorful nods to the natural world. Bees dot the surface of a work formed from leaves, honeycomb, and moss, while other works contain kaleidoscopic arrays of birds, mushrooms, and other fungi. Although the sculptures reflect a natural symbiosis, their structures are fictionalized in both their color and composition. None of the elements of her pieces are found objects, but rather each handmade from craft store supplies and objects like yarn, beads, wire, and paper.

“Making objects is my way of turning thought into something solid and real, and in a way, slowing time,” Gross tells Colossal. “I never use anything in my work that was ever alive, I collaborate solely with manufactured materials. They mimic living things but will not wither or die. It’s a very human desire to slow or control disintegration, to try to have a say in a volatile, uncontrollable world of change.”

Gross is included in a group exhibition titled Small Works, Big Impact which opens on November 15, 2018 at Momentum Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina. You can see more of her nature-inspired assemblages on her website.

 

 



Photography Science

Double Helixes Streak Across the Sky in Multi-Shot Images of Birds by Xavi Bou

October 25, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Spanish photographer Xavi Bou (previously) tracks and records the flight patterns of birds, combining their repetitive movements into elongated shapes that twist through the sky for his series Ornitographies. The images are inspired by chronophotography, a Victorian era photography method that combined multiple images to create movement, and edited digitally in Photoshop. The layered images appear like floating double helixes or fringed ribbon depending on the size and wingspan of each bird, and create elegant gestures as they criss-cross against the blue sky.

Recently Bou traveled to Iceland where he captured new species of birds set against a dramatically different landscape than his previous images. “Iceland was especially interesting because I was looking for the contrast between the size and heaviness of the volcanic rocks, in contrast between the tiny patterns that marine birds create in the sky,” he tells Colossal. Bou has also recently visited Barcelona to watch pigeons race across the city, and Tarifa, Spain to experience thousands of birds from all over Europe cross the sea towards Africa. You can see more of his multi-shot avian images on his website and Instagram.

 

 



Art Photography

Macro Photography Reveals the Dazzling Scales and Multi-Colored Hairs That Cover Butterfly Wings

October 11, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Chris Perani uses macro photography to capture the microscopic details found on butterflies’ wings, such as multi-colored hairs and iridescent scales. To photograph with such precision, the photographer uses a 10x microscope objective attached to a 200mm lens, which presents an almost non-existent depth of field. “The lens must be moved no more than 3 microns per photo to achieve focus across the thickness of the subject which can be up to 8 millimeters,” Perani explains to Colossal. “This yields 350 exposures, each with a sliver in focus, that must be composited together.” In total this accounts for 2,100 separate exposures combined into a single image. For more detailed observations of butterfly wings, visit Perani’s website. (via Colossal Submissions)

 

 



Photography

Rural Iceland Transformed Into A Rouge-Tinted World by Photographer Al Mefer

October 1, 2018

Anna Marks

Al Mefer transforms rural Iceland into a rouge-tinted world, producing images that make the area’s shrubbery look like candy floss, and moss-covered landscapes appear like red velvet cake. Mefer photographs a mixture of Icelandic topography, from iconic waterfalls to fields full of pink sheep. His photographs reveal the elements of the natural world that are often blurred into the background, such as the clustered patterns moss makes when growing on boulders, or how water froths was it spills over a waterfall.

Mefer’s project Dreamscapes of Iceland started while Mefer was traveling around the country with friends, and began to use a reflex camera to capture the country’s beautiful scenes. While exploring the Golden Circle, in the South of the country, Mefer photographed locations that would imprint an indelible memory upon him: Skógafoss’s waterfalls, cliffs and coastline, and Jökulsárlón’s glacial lake. “Iceland has been photographed a million times,” says Mefer, “I wanted to picture it in a way that it’d feel new yet as oneiric in the images as it is to see it live.”

The red and pink colors in Mefer’s photographs resemble the reddish hues inside the human body; the tones magnify the differences in texture and form between the living and non-living whilst having an emotional impact on the viewer. “Color affects us emotionally and I often focus my attention on it as a tool to rewrite reality,” he explains. Although some of Mefer’s photographs include people, a stillness is still captured in each photograph. “There’s a common trait among my projects to feel that the landscapes are mysterious and unexplored,” Mefer says. “They’re lonely even if populated.”

To view more of Mefer’s work visit his website and Instagram.