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Photography Science

Mesmerizing Shots of Distant Galaxies and Aurorae Top the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

September 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Andromeda Galaxy at Arm’s Length?” © Nicolas Lefaudeux (France), galaxies winner and overall winner. “Have you ever dreamt of touching a galaxy? This version of the Andromeda Galaxy seems to be at arm’s length among clouds of stars. Unfortunately, this is just an illusion, as the galaxy is still 2 million light-years away. In order to obtain the tilt-shift effect, the photographer 3D-printed a part to hold the camera at an angle at the focus of the telescope. The blur created by the defocus at the edges of the sensor gives this illusion of closeness to Andromeda.”

The 2020 Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest gathers a trove of sublime shots capturing otherwise unseen phenomena and distant fixtures of outer space. With more than 5,000 entries from six continents, the 12th annual competition includes Nicolas Lefaudeux’s photograph of the Andromeda Galaxy two million light-years away, one by Rafael Schmall that frames the lit trails of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites, and another of the Aurora Borealis reflecting on the ice by Kristina Makeeva (previously).

Starting October 23, 2020, the top photographs will be on display at the National Maritime Museum. Until then, pick up a copy of this year’s book that collects all 140 winning and shortlisted shots, and explore some of Colossal’s favorites below.

 

“Iceland “© Kristina Makeeva (Russia) aurorae highly commended. “Winters in Iceland require some training in terms of wind protection equipment. Iceland is a country with very strong winds, so a stable tripod is required to shoot the aurora. Many astrophotographers wait in a certain place for several hours to capture the Aurora Borealis. The photographer was lucky in this instance as she waited near Diamond Beach where the reflection of the aurora on the ice was beautiful.”

 

“The Prison of Technology” © Rafael Schmall (Hungary), people and space winner. “The star in the centre of the image is the Albireo double star, surrounded by the trails of moving satellites. How many more might there be by the time we reach next year’s competition? There could be thousands of moving dots in the sky. In order to create astrophotos, photographers have to carefully plan where to place the telescope, and this will be more difficult in the future with more satellites in the way.”

 

“Light Bridge in the Sky” © Xiuquan Zhang (China), aged 12, young competition highly commended. “The photographer visited Iceland with his mother in 2019. The sky there is wonderful every night. The photographer had never seen such a scene before! The aurora is magical, as you can see in this photo.”

 

“Cosmic Inferno” © Peter Ward (Australia), stars and nebulae winner. “NGC 3576 is a well-known nebula in southern skies but is shown here without any stars. The software reveals just the nebula, which has been mapped into a false color palette. The scene takes on the look of a celestial fire-maelstrom. The image is intended to reflect media images taken in Australia during 2019 and 2020, where massive bushfires caused the destruction of native forests and have claimed over 12 million acres of land. It shows nature can act on vast scales and serves as a stark warning that our planet needs nurturing.”

 

“Desert Magic” © Stefan Leibermann (Germany), skyscapes runner up. “The photographer took this image during a trip through Jordan. He stayed for three days in the desert at Wadi Rum. During the night, the photographer tried to capture the amazing starry sky over the desert. He used a star tracker device to capture the sky. The photographer found this red dune as a foreground and captured the imposing Milky Way centre in the sky.”

 

“Observe the Heart of the Galaxy” © Tian Li (China), people and space runner up. “This image depicts the photographer climbing the radio telescope and Mingantu solar radio telescope array. First, the photographer tested and moved his camera so that the M8 and M20 nebulae would appear right next to the telescope. After taking the foreground image, he moved his camera a little bit but still pointing at the same location in the sky, and captured the background with an equatorial mount.”

 

“Tycho Crater Region with Colours” © Alain Paillou (France), our moon winner. “The Tycho crater is one of the most famous craters on the Moon. This huge impact has left very impressive scars on the Moon’s surface. With the colours of the soils, Tycho is even more impressive. This picture combines one session with a black-and-white camera, to capture the details and sharpness, and one session with a colour camera, to capture the colours of the soils. These colours come mainly from metallic oxides in small balls of glass and can give useful information about the Moon’s geology and history. The blue shows a high titanium oxide concentration and the red shows high iron oxide concentration. This picture reveals the incredible beauty and complexity of our natural satellite.”

 

“The Green Lady” © Nicholas Roemmelt (Germany), aurorae winner. “The photographer had heard a lot of stories about the ‘lady in green’. Although he has had the chance to photograph the Northern Lights many times, he had never seen the ‘green lady’ before. On a journey to Norway, she unexpectedly appeared with her magical green clothes making the whole sky burn with green, blue, and pink colours.”

 

“The Dolphin Jumping out of an Ocean of Gas” © Connor Matherne (USA), stars and nebulae runner up. “This target is officially known as Sh2-308, but the photographer has always enjoyed calling it the Dolphin Nebula. It is a bubble of gas being shed by the bright blue star in the centre of the image as it enters its pre-supernova phase. The red star to the right could possibly be influencing the shape too and might be responsible for the bill of the dolphin. While it won’t explode in our lifetimes, seeing the warning signs are quite neat. It never hurts to say that the warning signs are the most beautiful part of this particular target!”

 

 



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)

 

 

 



Art Photography

Hundreds of Photos of the New York Sky Pinned to a Massive, Spherical Sculpture by Sarah Sze

June 11, 2020

Grace Ebert

” Shorter than the Day” (2020), powder-coated aluminum and steel, 48 x 30 x 30 feet. All images © Sarah Sze by Nicholas Knight

Artist Sarah Sze explores the myriad conceptions of time and space through a tremendous, new spherical sculpture. Titled “Shorter than the Day” —a reference to Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” which considers the comfort found in life’s finality—Sze’s piece weighs five tons and was unveiled Thursday at LaGuardia Airport. It is suspended above an atrium in Terminal B.

The New York-based artist captures the magnitude of the upper atmosphere as it changes from bright blue morning to a vibrant sunset to the rich hues of the night through nearly 1,000 photographs of the sky. Each printed image is fastened to the aluminum and steel with alligator clips and is revealed as viewers move around the massive work, just like the earth circles the sun to mark a day. The piece was fabricated in collaboration with Amuneal.

Along with three other projects from artists Jeppe Hein, Laura Owens, Sabine Hornig, “Shorter than the Day” was commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners and Public Art Fund. To find out more about Sze, whose work involves countless individual objects positioned in precise arrangements, watch her TED Talk and visit her site. (via ArtNet)

 

 

 



Photography

Watch the Earth Rotate for 24 Hours in an Entrancing Timelapse Centering the Sky

June 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

With a camera peering out over the landscape of Tivoli, Namibia, Bartosz Wojczyński focused on the sky. The Polish photographer created a hypnotic timelapse spanning 24 hours that has a focal point in the atmosphere rather than on the land. Each minute, he snapped a frame that subsequently was looped 60 times to create the final 24-minute version that’s a mesmerizing look at Earth’s cycles.

According to PetaPixel, Wojczyński’s camera was attached to an SW Star Adventurer, which is designed to assist in celestial photography. For more of the photographer’s space-centric projects, head to YouTube.

 

 

 



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

 

 



Art Photography

Majestic Trees in Serene Finnish Landscapes Photographed by Mikko Lagerstedt

November 30, 2019

Andrew LaSane

All photographs © Mikko Lagerstedt and shared with permission of the artist

Photographer Mikko Lagerstedt (previously) has once again captured the quiet beauty of his native Finland with a recent series centered around trees. Ethereal skies, virgin snow, and seemingly isolated pockets of nature serve as backdrops to twisted trunks and outstretched branches. Taken from Lapland to Southern Finland, the images speak to qualities of beauty and of resilience.

Lagerstedt was first inspired to capture these dreamy landscapes when he witnessed one first-hand while en route to a relative’s cabin. His images often showcase nature with little to no sunlight which gives them a sense of calm and stillness. The t r e e s series is comprised of photographs taken between 2018 and 2019 and edited using Photoshop and Lightroom. “My goal is to convey the feeling I had when I was photographing the subjects…to appreciate the never-ending beauty of trees,” Lagerstedt tells Colossal. “In our lives, we rarely recognize them, yet trees surround us with their beauty. They tell us many stories about life and the struggle to survive in harsh conditions.”

To see more of his work, follow Lagerstedt on Instagram and check out his portfolio on Behance.

 

 

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