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Art Science

Science-Inspired Ink by Michele Volpi Blurs the Line Between Tattoo and Textbook

July 29, 2020

Vanessa Ruiz

All images © Michele Volpi, shared with permission

One might learn something from staring at the tattoos of Italian artist Michele Volpi (previously). The composition, detailed dot work, and precise lines of his tattoos transcend both ink-infused skin and science textbooks. The Bologna-based tattoo artist relishes in scientific books—from Frank Netter’s painterly medical illustrations to the exquisitely rendered biological specimens and marine life of Ernst Haeckel. He often visits bookshops during his travels to discover and acquire these new sources of inspiration.

Volpi’s customers seek him out to tattoo an array of botany, astronomy, physiology, and chemistry-based compositions. Sometimes customers let him choose the branch of science, in which case he renders his favorite subject—anatomy. Even then, Volpi combines subject matter like in his tattoo comparing the shape of a human pelvis to that of a butterfly or another that features a human skull being stretched absurdly through a wormhole.

The artist tells Colossal that his “dream is to make a scientific book with all of my conceptual scientific illustrations that I love.” View Volpi’s body of work and booking information on Instagram. For those not ready for the permanence of a tattoo, there are prints of his pen-and-ink, anatomical illustrations available in his shop.

 

 

 

 



Art Craft

Biologically Accurate Sculptures of Animals by Fanni Sandor Are Smaller Than a Fingernail

July 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Fanni Sandor, shared with permission

Fanni Sandor has been fascinated by miniatures since childhood, constructing her first sculpture from toothpicks, candle wax, paper, and glue at six years old. “In my country, there (are) no traditions of the 1:12 scale miniature making. In my twenties, I met the first professional miniaturist’s work through the internet. I was completely fascinated,” she tells Colossal.

Today, the Hungary-based biologist and artist fashions minuscule baby bluejays clamoring for food, a mouse peeking out from a bit of bread, and a waddling family of mallards. Inspired by her background in biology, the miniatures feature incredibly accurate details, and most fit easily on the tip of a finger.

Sandor will spend anywhere from two days to two weeks on a single piece, noting that the robin’s nest alone took three days. Her process is multifaceted and begins with collecting photographs of the species before sketching a prototype. Forgoing molds, the artist employs embossing and pin-ending tools to sculpt the animal figures from polymer clay and wire. After baking, she chisels a few more details, paints, and attaches the fur and feathers where necessary.

In 2016, Sandor become a fellow at The International Guild of Miniature Artisans. To follow her upcoming projects, head to Instagram.

 

 

 



Photography Science

Bright Comet NEOWISE Captured Shooting Above Mount Hood by Photographer Lester Tsai

July 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Lester Tsai, shared with permission

Throughout July, Comet NEOWISE has been visible to those in the northern hemisphere as it orbits the sun. Portland-based photographer Lester Tsai recently traveled to Mount Hood to capture the phenomena as it shoots over Oregon’s highest mountain in a remarkable set of images. One of the brightest comets in decades, NEOWISE won’t make another appearance in the inner solar system for 6,800 years.

Tsai recounted the experience, describing the necessary preparation and the efforts to determine the frozen object’s probable visibility. “The comet changes position each day but when I mapped it out, it looked like there was a good chance it would do what I needed it to. I had never been there (Mount Hood National Forest) before but was excited to check it out,” he shares with Colossal. Location is crucial for astrophotography, but factors like weather, the sun’s position, and the moon’s cycle have an effect, too. Light pollution from a nearby municipality also can brighten the sky too much for a clear shot.

After traveling through a dense forest in the middle of the night, Tsai found his spot on a nearby cliff and set up his equipment. “Based on the rough directional data I had, I knew the comet would rise to the left side of the mountain and make its way up and to the right. Because this was such an unprecedented and possibly once in a lifetime event, I decided to use one of my cameras to shoot a timelapse,” Tsai says.

He expected the comet to arrive around 2 a.m., and after waiting and worrying he’d missed it, NEOWISE finally made its appearance an hour later. “As the night went on, the sky began to slowly brighten and saturate with beautiful colors on the horizon. 3 a.m. passed, and as 4 a.m. arrived, the comet was almost directly over the mountain,” Tsai says. Thanks to his patience, the photographer was able to capture the fleeting body as it descends in the star-speckled sky.

Head to Instagram to follow Tsai’s explorations of nature’s phenomena, and check out this handy guide to see Comet NEOWISE for yourself. (via Moss and Fog)

 

 

 



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