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Photography

2020 Audubon Photography Contest Captures Fleeting Moments of Birds Across the Americas

July 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

Double-crested Cormorant in Los Islotes, Mexico. Photograph by Joanna Lentini/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Grand Prize Winner. All images courtesy of Audubon Photography Awards, shared with permission

From a hummingbird piercing a water droplet to a roadrunner grasping its lunch to a tiger-heron posing for a portrait, the winners of the 2020 Audubon Photography Awards have captured a striking array of birds across the western hemisphere. Out of more than 6,000 entries, the top ten shots glimpse the transitory moments in avian lives that are otherwise unseen.

New York-based photographer Joanna Lentini secured the grand prize with her stunning photograph of a double-crested cormorant descending into the center of a school of fish in Los Islotes, Mexico. “I watched in awe as the cormorants plunged beak-first into the sea to snap at the sardines swimming by. Although I spent a long time admiring these birds, I didn’t see a single one catch a fish. Adding insult to injury, curious sea lion pups would zip by the hunting birds and nip at them from behind,” Lentini says.

Explore the top entries and the stories behind how they were captured on Audubon’s site, and check out 2019’s winners, too.

 

American Dipper in Yosemite National Park, California. Photograph by Marlee Fuller-Morris/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Fisher Prize Winner

Greater Roadrunner in San Joaquin River Parkway, California. Photograph by Christopher Smith/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Youth Honorable Mention

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron in Tárcoles River, Costa Rica. Photograph by Gail Bisson/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Amateur Winner

Anna’s Hummingbird at Ardenwood Historic Farm, California. Photograph by Bibek Ghosh/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Amateur Honorable Mention

American Goldfinch on a cup plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph by Travis Bonovsky/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Plants For Birds Winner

Tennessee Warbler on an eastern prickly gooseberry in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario. Photograph by Natalie Robertson/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Plants For Birds Honorable Mention

Magnificent Frigatebird in Genovesa Island, Ecuador. Photograph by Sue Dougherty/Audubon Photography Awards/2020 Professional Winner

 

 



Art Craft

Multi-Layered Ceramics by Artist Heesoo Lee Express the Movements of Land and Sea

July 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Heesoo Lee, shared with permission

Heesoo Lee has spent years carefully layering blades of grass, pine trees, and cherry blossoms to construct botanic entanglements that crawl across ceramic mugs and bowls. Inspired by seasonal woodlands and aspen forests, the Montana-based artist recreates bright pockets of landscapes that capture small motions, like falling fronds or rustling branches. “There is movement in trees, but it is slow and subtle, a leaf in wind, the slow growth of new leaves in spring,” she says.

While Lee has continued this tradition with many of her recent pieces, she’s expanded her source material to the ocean. For seven years, the artist lived in Maui, where she often surveyed the water. “I could sit on a beach all day and watch the waves, observe them, and feel calmed by them but also respectful of their energy and force,” she says. The memory has inspired a textured piece that swells upward to form a cavernous bowl. “Even in a small object, the waves are powerful and convey so much. For me, the waves connote freedom, the freedom to express myself and take risks,” the artist writes.

Diverging from land posed new challenges in Lee’s process. For landscapes, the artist repeats elements in layers to create a fully formed piece, but the same technique didn’t translate to water. “The first time I tried to make waves I failed. I failed over and over and over after that. There were cracks, pieces broke off,” she says. “I realized the feeling of making a wave is so much different from making a landscape.” Instead, Lee retrained her hands to follow the movement of the water, using slip casting, carving, and a series of manual techniques to capture its energy and force. Her color palette changed from amalgamations that evoked seasons to a precise set of blues.

Despite her forays into aquatic forms, Lee maintains an affinity for grassy fields and windswept boughs, which she explains:

My seasonal work, landscapes that focus on all four seasons, are still a mainstay of my practice. The memories that fuel the images are so powerful for me, and it gives me great pleasure to share my interpretation of those memories with people… I have heard from people that drinking from a cup I made helped them channel their own memories of the outdoors and the seasons, even during a time when they are stuck inside.

To purchase one of the artist’s organic works, follow her on Instagram, where she often shares shop updates, in addition to early looks into her process.

 

 

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Design Science

Japanese Aquariums Track Penguins’ Dramatic, Salacious Love Lives Through Complex Flowcharts

July 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

From Sumida Aquarium. All images © Kyoto Aquarium and Sumida Aquarium

Like most romances, penguins’ relationships aren’t black and white. The aquatic birds’ are known for their scandalous affairs, messy heartbreaks, and frequent kidnappings of each others’ chicks. To keep track of their complicated relationship statuses, caretakers at the Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium and Kyoto Aquarium have created a complex network documenting 2020’s romances.

The two flowcharts are replete with color-coded lines and symbols: Red hearts denote couples. Purple lines with question marks signify more complicated relationships with the potential of romance. A blue, broken heart indicates an ended affair. Yellow lines mean friendship, while green marks an enemy. Each penguin’s name is written underneath its photo.

In an interview with CNN Travel, Shoko Okuda, a spokeswoman for the aquariums, said the caretakers have included the dramatic birds’ flirtatious tactics, too, which includes wing flapping and shaking their necks left to right. Heartbroken birds—one female in Kyoto (shown below) ended six relationships last year alone—often refuse to eat their rice as they cope with the loss. The caretakers included have formed strong bonds with the penguins, sometimes even coming between same-species connections.

And remember, these are just the charts for 2020. Be sure to check back in with the Kyoto and Sumida caretakers to see what unfolds for 2021’s edition. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

From Sumida Aquarium

From Sumida Aquarium

From Kyoto Aquarium

From Kyoto Aquarium

 

 



Craft

Mossy Mazes and Dense Forests Embroidered into Textured Landscapes by Litli Ulfur

July 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

“The Inside,” 10 inches. All images © Litli Ulfur, shared with permission

Through a luxuriant series of embroideries, Litli Ulfur translates thick landscapes into lush entanglements of brown and green stitches. The abstract forms consider the intricacies of nature through an aerial perspective, contrasting micro- and macro-views in every inch. Each piece is created organically and uniquely, ensuring no two are alike.

The textured works are inspired by natural sources, like jungly forests and the human nervous system, that are reflected through French knots, tufts, and flat patches. “I was struck by certain similarities between the two—some of the trees in these forests (including oaks and beeches) were confusingly similar to the structure of human neurons. Their branches and roots bent in various directions creating a huge endless network,” she writes on Instagram about creating “The Inside.”

In a note to Colossal, Ulfur says her process begins with immersing herself in natural settings for a full sensory experience. “I celebrate this moment—being completely aware of it is crucial. I open myself up so I can consciously connect with it. I smell the scent, color. I feel the texture, experience the sound and taste,” she says. “Being alone with nature is really important to me. It gives me space to reflect on why I do what I do and feel what I feel.”

 

“Awake,” 10 inches

“Connection,” 10 inches

“The Tide,” 9 × 6.3 inches

“Connection,” 10 inches

“The Inside,” 10 inches

 

 



Art Illustration

Sinuous Snakes, Insects, and Florals Intertwine in Graphite Illustrations by Zoe Keller

June 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Where We Once Lived II,” copper belly water snake, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches. All images © Zoe Keller, shared with permission

Through a winding series of delicate illustrations, Zoe Keller (previously) explores the fragility of the natural world. In Scale & Bone, the Portland-based illustrator renders copper belly water snakes, San Francisco garters, and eastern diamondback rattlers through sinuous compositions that are ripe with skeletal remains, rows of butterflies, and dense patches of fungi. Each graphite drawing examines the tension between life and death and how nature’s processes are cyclical, including the shedding and regeneration of tube-like layers of skin.

Keller’s work considers the beauty of the limbless reptiles in an effort to subvert cultural notions. “Snakes, in particular, fascinate me as a subject matter because they elicit such a strong response in so many people,” she shares with Colossal. Scale & Bone is part of a larger effort to visualize the destruction of ecosystems and widespread loss of biodiversity. “Through the use of visual narratives that are interjected with surreal and magical elements, I hope to allow the species in my drawings to speak with urgency to the forces causing their decline in this time of human-driven mass extinction,” she writes.

Many of Keller’s projects fall at the intersection of art and environmental activism, offering
“opportunities to collaborate directly with scientists working on the ground to protect imperiled species.” The illustrator recently worked with Save the Snakes, an organization that steers conservation efforts and attempts to reduce harm by humans. Her serpent-focused poster will be unveiled this summer in time for World Snake Day.

Scale & Bone currently is on view at Antler Gallery, which is offering a virtual tour on its site. Follow Keller on Instagram for updates on her intertwined illustrations, and check her shop for prints, postcards, and stickers.

 

“Black Pine Snake,” graphite on paper, 34 x 43 inches

“Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake,” graphite on paper, 34 x 43 inches

“Eastern Indigo,” graphite on paper, 27.5 x 36 inches

“Memento Mori I” (2020), giant garter snake and pipevine swallowtail, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Always I” (2020), New Mexican tidge-nosed rattlesnake, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Memento Mori II,” San Francisco garter and cabbage white, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Are We Ghosts,” graphite on paper, 27.5 x 36 inches

 

 



Art History Photography Science

Cabinet of Curiosities: A New Book Opens Centuries-Old Collections of Fossils, Sculptures, and Other Oddities

June 22, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

In a span of more than 350 pages, Italian photographer Massimo Listri captures some of the most wondrous and bizarre collections gathered throughout history. Cabinet of Curiosities, a new XXL edition from Taschen, is comprised of countless artifacts from the Renaissance to modern-day. Including massive fossils, excavated coral growths, and impeccably preserved sculptures, Listri’s photographs capture treasures of natural history, art, astrology, biology, and design. Many of the eccentric collections were maintained formerly by aristocrats, such as Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg.

Dive into the historical troves by picking up a copy of Cabinet of Curiosities from Taschen or Bookshop. Check out Listri’s stunning compendium of global libraries, too.

 

 

 



Photography

Foxes Caught in Dramatic Squabbles and Sleepy Coils by Photographer Konsta Punkka

June 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Konsta Punkka, shared with permission

Each spring, Helsinki-born photographer Konsta Punkka (previously) stakes out dens, showing he’s as clever in strategy as the foxes he’s hoping to encounter. This commitment to hours lying on cold, wet ground for hours on end has afforded a splendid array of photographs depicting the furry creatures as they tussle, play, and sometimes, expend pent-up energy gnawing on cars. “Fox cubs are often naturally very curious, so all you need to do is to keep a safe distance from the den area and just lay in the ground and wait. Most of the time, the fox cubs come to check you out closer,” he tells Colossal.

A prolific nature photographer, Punkka shares many of his candid images on Instagram. Watch this video interview to get a peek behind his immersive process.

 

 

 

A Colossal

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Sailing Ship Kite