Discover Today's Top Photographers with My Modern Met. https://mymodernmet.com The Big City That Celebrates Creative Ideas Mon, 20 Jun 2022 19:06:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.2 https://mymodernmet.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/cropped-My-Modern-Met-Favicon-1-32x32.png Discover Today's Top Photographers with My Modern Met. https://mymodernmet.com 32 32 Ukrainian Students Are Taking Haunting Grad Photos in Rubble Created by the War https://mymodernmet.com/stanislav-senyk-ukraine-graduation-photos/ Mon, 20 Jun 2022 20:15:11 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=522147 Ukrainian Students Are Taking Haunting Grad Photos in Rubble Created by the War

Graduation is a special time of year for any student. It's filled with what are supposed to be joyous memories and excitement for the future. But this year, in Ukraine, graduation for students has taken on a new meaning. Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, life has changed. And one […]

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Ukrainian Students Are Taking Haunting Grad Photos in Rubble Created by the War Ukrainian Students Standing in Rubble of their School by Stanislav Senyk

Graduation is a special time of year for any student. It's filled with what are supposed to be joyous memories and excitement for the future. But this year, in Ukraine, graduation for students has taken on a new meaning. Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, life has changed. And one photographer wanted to immortalize this moment in history for students with a haunting set of graduation photos.

Before the war, Ukrainian photographer Stanislav Senyk spent his time photographing weddings, engagements, and other special moments. Since the start of the war, his work has taken on an even deeper meaning as he looks to highlight Ukrainian culture and conduct workshops with proceeds going toward the war effort. He's also interested in ensuring that future generations never forget what is currently happening in his country, so he put out a call to students in Chernihiv to see if anyone would be interested in graduation photos.

Forty students participated in the effort, which saw them posing with their graduation sashes in the rubble of bombed-out buildings. The haunting photographs are a reminder of the huge effort these children had to make in order to continue their education during the war. Senyk told Reuters that while the children faced disappointment in not having a graduation ceremony or a prom, they'd grown stronger from their current circumstances.

As they pose in disabled tanks, ruined buildings, and burnt-out cars, the students transmit a sense of defiance to continue on with their lives and to move forward. For Senyk, the experience was all about using his creative skills to show the world the reality of life for these graduating seniors.

“The main idea of this photoshoot is to save the history for these students,” he tells My Modern Met. “In the future, when these children will have their own children, they can show what is going on now. We must remember what Russia did in Ukraine in order to never allow this to happen again.”

Ukrainian photographer Stanislav Senyk put out a call for students who wanted graduation photos.

Graduation Photos of Students in Ukraine Standing in Ruins of WarUkrainian Students Standing in Rubble of their School by Stanislav SenykUkrainian Students Standing in Rubble of their School by Stanislav Senyk

Forty graduating seniors in Chernihiv answered the call, posing in the rubble of their city.

Ukrainian Students Standing in Bombed BuildingUkrainian Students Standing in Bombed BuildingUkrainian Students Standing in Rubble of their School by Stanislav Senyk

The images are a reminder of the harsh circumstances these kids face with continuing their education.

Graduation Photos of Students in Ukraine Standing in Ruins of WarUkrainian Student Sitting in TankGraduation Photos of Students in Ukraine Standing in Ruins of War

Senyk hopes that future generations will see this work and remember the cost of the war.

Ukrainian Students Standing in Bombed BuildingUkrainian Students Standing in Bombed BuildingUkrainian Students Standing in Rubble of their School by Stanislav SenykStanislav Senyk: Instagram | Twitter

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Stanislav Senyk.

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READ: Ukrainian Students Are Taking Haunting Grad Photos in Rubble Created by the War

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Photographer Captures Amazing Photo of Two Eagles Locking Their Talons in Mid Air https://mymodernmet.com/rajiv-mongia-eagles-interlocked/ Mon, 20 Jun 2022 16:35:13 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=520714 Photographer Captures Amazing Photo of Two Eagles Locking Their Talons in Mid Air

There are some pictures that a photographer might wait years to capture. This was the case for Portland-based enthusiast Rajiv Mongia as he patiently waited to snap an amazing shot of two eagles with their talons interlocked in mid-air. One of the birds is flying upright while the other winged creature is mirrored, turned upside down. […]

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Photographer Captures Amazing Photo of Two Eagles Locking Their Talons in Mid Air Bald Eagle Photography by Rajiv Mongia

There are some pictures that a photographer might wait years to capture. This was the case for Portland-based enthusiast Rajiv Mongia as he patiently waited to snap an amazing shot of two eagles with their talons interlocked in mid-air. One of the birds is flying upright while the other winged creature is mirrored, turned upside down. It looks as though the upturned bird is about to tumble out of the sky, if not for being held there by the other one.

Mongia began photographing wildlife after a trip to Patagonia in 2017. “I found it amazing to try to understand the behavior of wildlife, to try to catch that special ‘moment’ that one sees in the photographs of amazing professionals,” he shares with My Modern Met. “I started to practice at that point and quickly learned how much planning, patience, knowing the technical skills (light triangle, etc), and sheer luck is involved in getting the ‘right shot.’”

The pandemic propelled Mongia’s practice forward. He used photography as a way to get out of the house—to take some photos and recharge. In doing so, he began thinking about some specific shots he wanted to capture.

“One of those was the behavior of raptors such as bald eagles,” Mongia says. “In the Pacific NW, it is amazing to see how bald eagles have once again become common in the skies. I have gotten a number of wonderful pictures of eagles perched and even caught some nice photos of eagles grabbing ducks/sea birds, but I have never really been able to get nice pictures of them interacting with each other.” He had seen photos (from other photographers) of the eagles flying as they locked talons, but he wasn’t sure when or where he’d be able to snap a picture like that.

Mongia finally had the opportunity for that famed shot. “I saw a series of workshops from an amazing photographer, Mark Smith,” he recalls. “[Mark] has the most epic shots of eagles and I was hoping I could learn skills by taking his workshop in Washington. [He] gave incredible advice on how the eagles had been behaving in the last few days and what to look for when there is about to be some nice action.”

After working on some technical aspects with Smith, Mongia spent about four hours shooting pictures. “The scene was crazy at that location— there were 20–30 eagles, 10–20 great blue herons, some crows, and some gulls—all flying around trying to get the fish at this spot. The action was constant—and there we all were at the workshop, firing away. Things were happening so fast that you don't know for sure what you caught and you don't have time to review your images as you go since every time you looked up there was another eagle flying in from a different direction.”

Moniga took about 5,000 pictures that day, and he wasn’t sure how they would turn out. “I get home that evening and start doing my rapid pre-sort of photos to see if I indeed got something different,” he shares. “There was one part where one eagle grabbed another and tossed it into the water. DANG, missed that one. Another where there was action between two eagles—UGH, missed focus on that one.”

But then came that magic moment. “I run across this picture that I posted,” he continues. “I had to blink my eyes for a second. Yes, it was a bit far away (I had to crop quite a bit), but the action was perfect—two eagles locked talon and talon, each out-stretched. One with its mouth open in a cry and the other focused on the first one.”

It was the shot he had been pining over for years, and with his passion for bird photography, it likely won’t be his last.

Rajiv Mongia has a passion for bird photography.

Bald Eagle Photography by Rajiv Mongia

Bald Eagle Photography by Rajiv MongiaBald Eagle Photography by Rajiv MongiaWild Bird Photo by Rajiv Mongia

While waiting years for the perfect shot of two bald eagles interlocked in mid-air, he's snapped many more photos of ferocious birds.

Bald Eagle Photography by Rajiv MongiaWild Bird Photo by Rajiv MongiaWild Bird Photo by Rajiv Mongia

Rajiv Mongia: Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Rajiv Mongia. 

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Scientists Use Camera Traps To Create World’s Largest Photo Database of Amazon Wildlife https://mymodernmet.com/wildlife-conservation-society-amazon-camera-traps/ Sun, 19 Jun 2022 12:55:24 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=518631 Scientists Use Camera Traps To Create World’s Largest Photo Database of Amazon Wildlife

We may never know the entirety of the natural world's vast beauty. But thanks to scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) we’re another step closer to figuring out one little corner of the Earth. For conservation research, the organization set up hundreds of camera trap stations all over the Amazon basin in order to capture […]

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Scientists Use Camera Traps To Create World’s Largest Photo Database of Amazon Wildlife
Wildlife Conservation Society Camera Traps Compile Database on Amazon Rainforest Animals

Puma captured on a camera trap. (Photo: WCS Ecuador)

We may never know the entirety of the natural world's vast beauty. But thanks to scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) we’re another step closer to figuring out one little corner of the Earth. For conservation research, the organization set up hundreds of camera trap stations all over the Amazon basin in order to capture images and video footage of wildlife in the region. The results offer a rare insight into the creatures' daily lives and habits.

“Many of the most cryptic species are incredibly difficult to study because they are so hard to observe, either because they are rare, shy, nocturnal, or all three (!), but multiple camera traps left in the forest for 1-2 months or more can observe them for us,” says Robert Wallace, the director of WCS’s Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Program and co-author of the study. “Camera traps pick up animals when they are least expecting it—for example, giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) taking a mud bath, a crested eagle (Morphnus guianensis) drinking and taking a puddle bath, or a puma or cougar (Puma concolor) taking a nap.”

Data was collected over the course of two decades from 143 field sites in the Amazon basin. The WCS provided more than 57,000 images to be used in a new study that includes researchers from more than 100 institutions. The recent study was published in the scientific journal Ecology and compiled a collection of more than 120,000 images of nearly 300 species across eight countries in the Amazon region: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. The study’s main goal was to create a database of images of Amazon wildlife while also documenting habitat loss, fragmentation, and the effects of climate change.

Now, with the images contributed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, it has become the largest existing photo database of Amazon fauna. And it marks the first time that images from camera traps in different regions have been compiled and standardized on such a large scale. At the study’s completion, researchers had 154,123 images of 317 species, including 185 birds, 119 mammals, and 13 reptiles. Of all the mammals photographed, the one captured most frequently was the spotted or lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), a type of rodent. In total, the little furry critter was recorded almost 12,000 times.

The bird that was seen most often was the razor-billed curassow (Pauxi tuberosa), which made it on film more than 3,700 times. And the most common reptile was the gold tegu lizard (Tupinambis teguixin), seen on camera 716 times. But of all the photos included in the study, the focal species for the majority of the collection was the jaguar (Panthera onca), which some consider the “wildlife symbol of the Amazon.”

Though they were developed almost a century ago, camera traps weren’t used to study wildlife until the early 1990s. But since then, they’ve become an indispensable tool for conservation and wildlife research. They’re a simple and non-invasive way to collect information on the environment, and with the advancement of technology, they’ve only become more useful. This new study highlights their importance in more ways than one.

“With increasing concerns about the impact of climate change on wildlife distribution and abundance, this collated dataset provides a baseline with which we can monitor change over time into the future,” says Wallace. “It is also important to stress that analytical techniques are constantly evolving and making these data available is a huge step forward for science and wildlife in the Amazon.”

Scroll down to see more camera trap wildlife photos from the study, and watch the video to catch a glimpse of some Amazon wildlife in action.

A recent study used camera traps to capture more than 120,000 images and video footage of wildlife in the Amazon basin.

Wildlife Conservation Society Camera Traps Compile Database on Amazon Rainforest Animals

Andean bear captured on a camera trap. (Photo: WCS Ecuador)

Wildlife Conservation Society Camera Traps Compile Database on Amazon Rainforest Animals

Jaguar captured on a camera trap. (Photo: WCS Ecuador)

Wildlife Conservation Society Camera Traps Compile Database on Amazon Rainforest Animals

Giant anteater captured on a camera trap. (Photo: WCS Bolivia)

Watch this video to see the fascinating creatures in action.

Wildlife Conservation Society: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube
h/t: [Treehugger]

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READ: Scientists Use Camera Traps To Create World’s Largest Photo Database of Amazon Wildlife

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Photographer Captures Colorful “Moonbows” That Happen in the Moonlight at Waterfalls https://mymodernmet.com/brian-hawkins-moonbow/ Sat, 18 Jun 2022 13:45:03 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=520002 Photographer Captures Colorful “Moonbows” That Happen in the Moonlight at Waterfalls

Most of us have heard of rainbows, but have you ever heard of a moonbow? Photographer Brian Hawkins certainly has. In fact, he's been photographing these rainbows created by moonlight since 2011. His main stomping ground is in Yosemite National Park, where the spray given off by waterfalls gets enough moonlight to create this special […]

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Photographer Captures Colorful “Moonbows” That Happen in the Moonlight at Waterfalls Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Most of us have heard of rainbows, but have you ever heard of a moonbow? Photographer Brian Hawkins certainly has. In fact, he's been photographing these rainbows created by moonlight since 2011. His main stomping ground is in Yosemite National Park, where the spray given off by waterfalls gets enough moonlight to create this special phenomenon.

Hawkins has gotten so skilled at predicting these moonbows that he's even set up a helpful website to share his findings. This is because while moonbows happen as frequently as rainbows, it can be harder for us to see them in low light.

“In practice, it is easiest to see them when the moon is almost full on a clear night while standing near the mist of a waterfall,” he shares. “I recommend looking when the moon is within two days of being 100% full. If you are lucky enough to capture it, moonbows during a supermoon are even more intense.”

Hawkins' moonbow website does an excellent job of explaining what photographers can expect when they see this special occurrence. This is important because lunar rainbows don't look like one might expect at first glance.

“To the human eye, moonbows typically look dull and colorless, appearing as a gray arc in the mist of the waterfall,” he writes. “This is because human color vision sensitivity is reduced in low light environments. The photograph below simulates what our eyes see when viewing a moonbow with our eyes for the first time. With sufficient time to adjust to the low light, the colors will become more apparent, but not as vivid as they appear to a camera.”

Hawkins gives us an inside glimpse of these lunar rainbows in real-time with his new spectacular short film. Seeing the colors dance in the moonlight, with the falls on display, is truly incredible. The film is something that he's been working on since 2016 and the result is well worth the wait. It's also further evidence that Hawkins has become an expert in moonbows over the last decade.

Brian Hawkins has been photographing moonbows at Yosemite National Park for over a decade.

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian HawkinsYosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

He also spent six years working on a film to show these lunar rainbows in real-time.

His website, Yosemite Moonbow, shares his predictions and tips for seeing and photographing moonbows.

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian HawkinsYosemite Moonbow by Brian HawkinsYosemite Moonbow by Brian HawkinsYosemite Moonbow by Brian HawkinsBrian Hawkins: Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Brian Hawkins.

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READ: Photographer Captures Colorful “Moonbows” That Happen in the Moonlight at Waterfalls

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Winners of the 2022 BigPicture Natural World Photography Contest Celebrate Biodiversity https://mymodernmet.com/bigpicture-natural-world-photo-competition-2022/ Fri, 17 Jun 2022 13:50:57 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=521496 Winners of the 2022 BigPicture Natural World Photography Contest Celebrate Biodiversity

The annual BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition has just released the winners and finalists for 2022. As always, the California Academy of Sciences puts together the event to celebrate Earth's biodiversity. This year's big winner, Karine Aigner, took home the top prize for a rare look at the bizarre mating ritual of cactus bees. Hers […]

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Winners of the 2022 BigPicture Natural World Photography Contest Celebrate Biodiversity
Mating Ball of Cactus Bees

“Bee Balling” by Karine Aigner. Grand Prize Winner.
“On a warm spring morning in South Texas, a female cactus bee (Diadasia rinconis) emerged from her small, cylindrical nest in the ground, rising like ash from a chimney. Almost instantly, she was swarmed by dozens of patrolling males, their tawny bodies forming a buzzing, roiling “mating ball” as they vied for a chance to copulate with her. After a tumultuous 20 seconds or so, the ball of bees dissipated, and the female flew off—a single, victorious male holding tight to her back.
Mating aggregations only last for a little more than a week, so photographer Karine Aigner was fortunate to capture this particular mating ball. While rarely noticed or documented by humans, these native bees play a critical role as pollinators, especially for prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) cacti, a critical source of sustenance for many species in the dry American Southwest.”

The annual BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition has just released the winners and finalists for 2022. As always, the California Academy of Sciences puts together the event to celebrate Earth's biodiversity. This year's big winner, Karine Aigner, took home the top prize for a rare look at the bizarre mating ritual of cactus bees.

Hers is just one of many photographs in the contest that document exceptional behavior by animals, whether they are on land or under water. For example, Jose Grandío's image of an acrobatic stoat is a charming example of behavior that scientists are still trying to understand. Whatever the reason for this “dancing,” what is clear is that we are lucky to have photographers like Grandío who are willing to take the time to immortalize these flips and leaps.

Whether exploring mating rituals or looking at how animals are adapting to human development, all of the photographs celebrate the natural world. And, at the same time, they teach us about what is really happening in the animal kingdom. So while appreciating the artistry of these photographs, we are also pushed to learn more about how animals are thriving or struggling and what we can do to help.

This gallery was originally published in bioGraphic, an independent magazine about nature and conservation powered by the California Academy of Sciences, and media partner of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition.

The winners of the 2022 BigPicture Natural World Photography Contest celebrate nature and its biodiversity.

Stoat Jumping in the Snow

“The Stoat’s Game” by Jose Grandío. Terrestrial Life Finalist.
“In the pre-dawn hours of a cold winter morning in the French Alps, photographer Jose Grandío lay still in the snow, waiting for a stoat (Mustela erminea) to emerge from its burrow. He had spent the past few days waiting in the same manner, without payoff, but his patience was about to be rewarded. Shortly after the sun rose, the stoat climbed out into the pale, winter light and proceeded to put on a spectacular show. “He seemed to be playing with the fresh snow that had just fallen, making sudden jumps and crawling through the snow,” recalls Grandío.
Scientists have witnessed stoats engaging in similar displays on many occasions, and they refer to the behavior as dancing, although their opinions are divided about what motivates the leaps and twists. Sometimes, the dances are performed in front of a rabbit or large bird in a seeming attempt to confuse or distract potential prey—a strategy that has proven effective in a number of documented interactions. At other times, as was the case in the display Grandío photographed, there is no prey animal in sight, and the dance seems simply to be an expression of exuberance. A third hypothesis is that the dances are actually an involuntary response to a parasitic infection, since stoats are known to be hosts for cranial parasitic worms. Whatever the interpretation of the behavior, one thing scientists have learned is that when associated with an attack on a large prey species, these displays reduce the risk of injury to the stoat—likely because they provide an element of surprise. Such a benefit could eventually reinforce the behavior, whether it was originally intentional or not.
In this particular case, the stoat leapt and danced for about half an hour before returning to his den for the rest of the day. While the impetus for his energetic display is unclear, Grandío can’t help thinking it was “something like a game for him,” a joyful response to the pleasure of pristine snow.”

Dead Sea Lion Covered in Bat Stars

“After the Fall” by David Slater. Aquatic Life Winner.
“California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are iconic members of the Monterey Bay ecosystem, and photographer David Slater loves diving with them. “They rush past you with such beauty and grace that they leave you stunned,” he gushes. But during a dive last September, Slater witnessed a more somber sea lion scene. On a mucky stretch of sea floor, a dead sea lion had fallen to its final resting place, a colorful array of bat stars (Patiria miniata) strewn across its body like flowers tossed onto a grave.
Bat stars are omnivorous and frequently feed on carcasses that fall to the ocean floor.”

Atlantic Goliath Grouper Surrounded by Fish

“Tunnel Vision” by Tom Shlesinger. Aquatic Life Finalist.
“Each year, from August to early October, Atlantic goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) gather off the east coast of Florida to spawn. On dark nights when the moon is new, refrigerator-sized males produce low-frequency booming sounds by contracting their swim bladders, calling other groupers to congregate around shipwrecks or rocky reefs. Fifty years ago, more than 100 fish might answer the call. But by 1990, the slow-moving species had been fished almost to extinction, and mating aggregations were often reduced to just a handful of fish. That year, goliath groupers were protected under both federal and state fishing bans, and the population slowly began to recover. While Florida’s mating aggregations have not yet attained the numbers local fishermen recall from the 1970s, it’s now common to see 20 to 40 groupers together during the breeding season.
However, in March, despite heavy opposition from scientists who study the species, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to reopen recreational fishing for goliath groupers beginning in 2023. Under the new plan, up to 200 permits will be sold each year for between $150 and $500, each of which will allow for the harvest of an adult grouper.”

Jaguar and Pig Face to Face Through a Face

“Face to Face” by Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar. Human/Nature Finalist.
“Two creatures face off through a woven-wire fence: one predator the other prey; one wild, the other, essentially, manufactured for our use. The moment is a manifestation of two worlds colliding, with no clear indication of which will prevail. Such images, of the natural world intersecting with one so heavily impacted by humans, have become a near obsession for Mexico-based photographer Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar. And few places in the world present as many opportunities to capture the conflict first-hand as Martínez Belmar’s native Yucatán Peninsula, home to both the elusive jaguar (Panthera onca) and one of Mexico’s fastest-growing tourist hotspots, the “Maya Riviera.”
Until recently, scientists had little hope that a viable ecological corridor could exist between the two protected areas, given the heavily developed land that links them. However, a radio tracking study published earlier this year suggests that jaguars are not only using this corridor—they are establishing home ranges along its route. While the cats prefer forested or secondary growth areas over profusely disturbed habitat, they are capable of capitalizing on opportunities presented by human development. One male, for instance, centered his home range on a landfill, where he found a plentiful source of prey in the form of feral dogs and other animals that scavenged at the site. It’s not an ideal scenario, but the resilience demonstrated by these individuals provides hope that with thoughtful planning around future development in the area, the Yucatán Peninsula’s jaguars can continue to thrive.”

Bat Framed Within a Ring of Foliage

“Frame Within a Frame” by Sitaram May. Winged Life Winner.
“Photographer Sitaram May used to think of wildlife photography as something he did while traveling. But when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, he started to pay more attention to the wildlife in his own backyard. “One night, sitting on my balcony, I was looking out at a custard apple tree, and bats were coming frequently to eat the fruits,” he recalls. “The whole world was cursing bats, but I decided to observe them.” May spent three weeks watching the fruit bats, eventually learning to predict their behavior and identify gaps in the tree canopy where they were likely to make an entrance. At one such opening, he managed to capture this shot, perfectly framing the bat within a ring of lush, green foliage.”

Eurasian Beavers in Hungary

“Spider Web” by Bence Máté. Terrestrial Life Winner.
“It was dawn in Hungary’s Kiskunsag National Park, and photographer Bence Máté lay still, barely breathing, on a coffin-sized floating hide. In front of him, a Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) was busy gnawing on a tree, backlit by the first rays of the morning sun. Nearby, previously felled trees emerged like dock pilings from the mist-shrouded water, one of them festooned with a glowing spider web. The ethereal scene was more than just beautiful; it was a striking illustration of the idea that beavers transform their environments when they build dams, creating habitats that are utilized by many other species.”

Leach’s sea star Shooting Sperm Into the Water

“Shooting Star” by Tony Wu. Aquatic Life Finalist.
“Three days before the full moon last July, photographer Tony Wu dove into a bay off the coast of Kagoshima, Japan, in search of a starry goby (Asterropteryx semipunctata)—a golf-tee-sized fish with bright, pin-prick dots scattered across its dark skin. He had been hoping to photograph the pretty, star-studded fish for weeks, and he expected to spend his whole dive focused on that task. But shortly after he spotted his first goby, Wu got sidetracked by a different stellar scene: A Leach’s sea star (Leiaster leachi) raised itself up onto the tips of its arms and began to spawn, shooting a Milky Way of sperm into the surrounding seawater.
Like many marine invertebrates, starfish reproduce by broadcast spawning—releasing large quantities of sperm and eggs into the water column within a short period of time. To maximize the chances of fertilization for these gametes, they synchronize their efforts with neighboring members of their species, using temperature, light, and lunar cycle cues to guide their timing.”

Wiley's Glas Frog Leaving Eggs on a Leaf

“Embryology” by Jaime Culebras. Terrestrial Life Finalist.
“On a moonlit night near the Yanayacu Research Station in northeastern Ecuador, a female Wiley’s glass frog (Nymphargus wileyi) hopped onto a fern and traversed one of its fronds, responding to the call of a waiting male. He mounted her back, prepared to hold on tight for several hours until she was ready to deposit her eggs. Finally, she positioned herself at the tip of a leafy arm that extended over a stream and pushed out a clutch of eggs, which the male immediately fertilized. Housed within a gelatinous mass that deters predators, protects against dehydration and prevents fungal infections, the embryos developed for a few days on the tip of the fern before dropping into the water to continue their metamorphosis. But before they fell, scientist and photographer Jaime Culebras captured this stunning, backlit portrait.
Very little is currently known about Wiley’s glass frogs. They weren’t documented by scientists until 2006, and so far, they have only been found in the immediate vicinity of the Yanayacu Research Station. While researchers have collected adults and seen their egg clutches, which contain between 19 and 28 embryos, they have never recorded the species’ mating calls, documented parental investment behaviors, observed the tadpoles, or conducted a population assessment.”

Dead Insects Laid on a Light Box

“Into the Light” by Pål Hermansen. Art of Nature Winner.
“When photographer Pål Hermansen walked outside one brisk March morning in Ski, Norway and looked back at his house, he was dismayed. One of the outdoor lights had been left on all night, and within its bright shell, he saw the dark stains of dozens of insects, drawn to their death by the accidental beacon. As he cleaned out the fixture, Hermansen was inspired to photograph the collection of insects, hoping to shine a light on ‘the hidden creatures that are a foundation for our lives—creatures that we easily ignore.'”

Common Frog Parts Laying Dead in the Water

“Sickening Delicacy” by Bence Máté. Human/Nature Winner.
“While traveling in Romania’s Carpathian region several years ago, photographer Bence Máté came across a horrific scene. At a spawning site for common frogs (Rana temporaria), hundreds of frogs (and several toads) lay dead in the water, some still grasping partners, their hind legs notably missing. Poachers had plucked the amphibians from the pool as they attempted to breed, cut off their back legs to feed the frog-leg trade, and thrown them back into the water to die a lingering death among their spawn. ‘It was the cruelty that shocked me most,' says Máté, ‘but also the harm caused to local populations.'
Every year, millions of frogs are traded around the world as a source of food. The trade is fueled not just by the collection of wild animals on a local scale, as Máté witnessed in Romania, but also by industrial commercial farming in China and other countries. While poaching can imperil local populations, commercial farming actually poses an even greater threat to amphibians around the world. ‘Mass farming and international trade to supply the frog-leg industry are spreading deadly diseases and contributing to the current amphibian extinction crisis,' says herpetologist and wildlife trade expert Jonathan Kolby. ‘Two types of pathogens in particular, amphibian chytrid fungus and ranavirus, are being spread far and wide by the trade in frog legs and have already driven dozens of population declines and extinctions.'
If frog legs are to stay on the menu for humans, improved welfare and disease control measures are urgently needed to better protect amphibians globally.”

Cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula

“Hidden Beauty” by Tom St George. Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner.
“Deep in a cenote on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, photographer Tom St George encountered this otherworldly, seemingly lifeless cavern, its dimly lit waters penetrated by thousands of dramatic stalactites. Inhospitable as it may appear, this flooded cave is actually far from barren. It is part of an extensive subterranean network of flooded passages, sinkholes, and caves that host a surprising diversity of fish and zooplankton, most of which are found only in the Yucatán. Many are also endangered, since the peninsula’s cenotes are threatened by development and pollution. One of these species, Antromysis cenotensis, is a tiny crustacean that plays an outsized role in its ecosystem. Included on the Mexican Red List of Species at Risk, the shrimp-like organism makes long vertical migrations as it feeds, thus moving nutrients through the water column. It is also a critically important food source for cenote fish.”

BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition.

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Photographer Spends Two Years Building Enormous Wet Plate Camera and Bus Darkroom https://mymodernmet.com/bill-hao-wet-plate-photography-darkroom-bus/ Tue, 14 Jun 2022 14:45:15 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=518330 Photographer Spends Two Years Building Enormous Wet Plate Camera and Bus Darkroom

Most wet plate photographers stick to studio portraits, and there's a very good reason for this. Not only can the equipment be heavy, but working quickly is essential. The photographer needs to coat, expose, fix, and develop the plate within a very short timeframe, so there must be a darkroom on site. But photographer Bill […]

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Photographer Spends Two Years Building Enormous Wet Plate Camera and Bus Darkroom Wet Plate Camera and Bus Darkroom by Bill Hao

Most wet plate photographers stick to studio portraits, and there's a very good reason for this. Not only can the equipment be heavy, but working quickly is essential. The photographer needs to coat, expose, fix, and develop the plate within a very short timeframe, so there must be a darkroom on site. But photographer Bill Hao didn't let these obstacles stop him from fulfilling his dream to take large landscape photos using the wet plate collodion process. In fact, he spent two years building his own giant camera and converting a bus into a portable darkroom so that he could take his wet plate photography on the road.

Hao's love of photography began when he was a teenager. At the time, he used film and would develop his own images. Since 2015 he's been immersed in the wet plate process, finding it a satisfying alternative to digital technology. “I'm not saying that the old process is better than digital,” he tells My Modern Met. “Of course, today's digital technology is simple, fast, and great. But for me, the image capture techniques of the old days, especially the wet collodion process, offer better quality, more tone, more detail, and a larger format. An image made with the old process looks more realistic and can be preserved for longer.”

Passionate about landscape photography, Hao built his first 11″x11″ camera in 2015. At that time, he also converted a Dodge Caravan into a small darkroom. But, as time went on, he was looking to go bigger, and, with wet plate photography, the only way to do that is to scale up. So, in 2019, he set about creating something even bigger.

It took him two years—and a lot of trial and error—but in the end, he was able to create a camera that would produce the size he desired. And, most importantly, was something that he would be able to set up and operate himself. When completely open, the camera is 52″x37″x70″ and weighs 110 pounds. The lens and film holder adds an additional 44 pounds. Each of its three tripods weighs 22 pounds.

The glass plates that Hao uses are 3 mm thick and measure 32″×48″, giving him the large format that he's after. But, of course, the camera is only half the battle. So, he also spent eight months converting a bus into a darkroom, ensuring that he would have space for all the chemicals required, as well as electricity and water. As Hao likes to go off the grid in search of beautiful scenery, being self-sufficient was key.

Now he spends ample time in the Canadian Rockies. It's an environment he's quite familiar with after having operated a tour company in the area for 16 years. His setup gives him the freedom to spend large stretches of time in the Rockies, perfecting the difficult techniques of wet plate landscape photography.

“During my time working, I have observed how the landscape changes [and] how beautiful natural features disappear,” he shares. “My collodion plate may last for two hundred years, but some landscapes may not—they may disappear in the future. This is why I started using the wet collodion process to record them, and anyway the beautiful view for everyone is great!”

Photographer Bill Hao is passionate about wet plate collodion photography.

Wet Plate Landscape Photography by Bill HaoLargescale Wet Plate Photography by Bill Hao

But he wanted to take his work on the road, so he spent two years building a large format camera.

Bill Hao Making Wet Plate CameraBill Hao Making Wet Plate CameraLarge Wet Plate Camera Built by Bill Hao

It uses 32×48 inch glass plates and the body alone weighs 110 pounds.

Bill Hao with Large Wet Plate Camera on Site

He also spent eight months converting a bus into a portable darkroom.

Converting a Bus Into a Portable DarkroomDeveloping Wet Plate PhotoDeveloping Wet Plate Photo by Bill HaoDeveloping Wet Plate Photo by Bill Hao

Now, he's able to spend long stretches off the grid in the Canadian Rockies and perfect his wet plate photography.

Bill Hao: Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Bill Hao.

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READ: Photographer Spends Two Years Building Enormous Wet Plate Camera and Bus Darkroom

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Astrophotographer Captures Spectacular Sight of the Andromeda Galaxy From His Backyard https://mymodernmet.com/brennan-gilmore-andromeda-galaxy/ Sat, 11 Jun 2022 14:45:06 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=517189 Astrophotographer Captures Spectacular Sight of the Andromeda Galaxy From His Backyard

In the summer of 2020, the world was enthralled with the Comet Neowise, which only makes an appearance every 6,800 years. Brennan Gilmore was so enthralled that it kicked off a passion for astrophotography that continues today. Two years after beginning his journey photographing the stars, he has accomplished a major goal: photographing the Andromeda […]

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Astrophotographer Captures Spectacular Sight of the Andromeda Galaxy From His Backyard Andromeda Galaxy Photo by Brennan Gilmore

In the summer of 2020, the world was enthralled with the Comet Neowise, which only makes an appearance every 6,800 years. Brennan Gilmore was so enthralled that it kicked off a passion for astrophotography that continues today. Two years after beginning his journey photographing the stars, he has accomplished a major goal: photographing the Andromeda galaxy.

Our neighbor in the sky, Andromeda is a spiral galaxy similar to our own Milky Way. Sitting 2.5 million light-years away, it remains a bright spot in the atmosphere and was something that Gilmore first photographed two years ago. However, it took him some time to build up the skills and acquire the equipment to achieve an image he was happy with. The final result was well worth the wait, as the image went viral after he posted it online and even ended up in Newsweek.

Gilmore captured the stunning image from his backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the course of several nights. Using a four-inch telescope and astronomy camera, he took hundreds of photos of Andromeda. From there, he carefully culled his images, using only the very best for the final photograph.

In the end, all of his efforts paid off. The final photo, created from 290 individual frames, is incredibly detailed. Many of Andromeda's one trillion stars are visible through its gas halo. Gilmore thought of every detail, including the exposure so that even the core of the galaxy isn't overexposed. This allows viewers to drink in the stars and ponder on this far away neighbor, which is actually headed toward our own galaxy.

For Gilmore, seeing his Andromeda photo get widespread recognition is a beautiful end to a long journey. “It felt great to have the public appreciate and feel inspired by a photo which was essentially years in the making. Hopefully, it inspires people to try to photograph space, or at least spend some time under the stars.”

See more of Brennan Gilmore's incredible astrophotography.

Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades Star Cluster

Heart and Soul Nebula over the Rotunda at the University of Virginia

Heart and Soul Nebula over the Rotunda at the University of Virginia

Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn with the Moon over Lousia County, Virginia

Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn with the Moon over Lousia County, Virginia

Brennan Gilmore: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Brennan Gilmore.

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Photographer Shares Visual Diary of Lockdown in Shanghai Under “Zero Covid” Policy [Interview] https://mymodernmet.com/shanghai-covid-lockdown-nicole-chan/ Thu, 09 Jun 2022 20:15:34 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=519156 Photographer Shares Visual Diary of Lockdown in Shanghai Under “Zero Covid” Policy [Interview]

When we last caught up with American photographer Nicole Chan, it was February 2020 and the world was on the cusp of change. Chan, who has lived in Shanghai for many years, photographed the bustling city as it shut down due to COVID-19. Soon, the rest of the world would follow. Now, Chan is sharing […]

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Photographer Shares Visual Diary of Lockdown in Shanghai Under “Zero Covid” Policy [Interview] Shanghai During Spring 2022 Covid Lockdown

When we last caught up with American photographer Nicole Chan, it was February 2020 and the world was on the cusp of change. Chan, who has lived in Shanghai for many years, photographed the bustling city as it shut down due to COVID-19. Soon, the rest of the world would follow. Now, Chan is sharing her new reality as Shanghai is emerging from a crushing lockdown that was initially meant to last only five days, but stretched for months.

Under China's “zero Covid” policy, any positive test for the coronavirus leads to an immediate lockdown not only for the person who tested positive but all close contacts. The country's use of contact tracing and swift quarantine was heralded during the beginning of the pandemic; but, two years in, the cracks are showing. Economic concerns are beginning to bubble up, and citizens are starting to be vocal about their negative feelings in regard to the totalitarian policy.

With a clear view of the situation, Chan uses her camera to demonstrate how Shanghai—a thriving metropolis of 26 million residents—is coping. From April 1 to June 1, citizens were under strict orders not to leave their homes. And while celebrations broke out as June 1 approached, just 24 hours later several neighborhoods were under restriction once again. Though restrictions have since eased slightly, many people are still confined. This is leading to tension and protests, a rarity in this city.

Thanks to Chan's work over the course of the entire lockdown, we have a visual diary that immortalizes life during lockdown in Shanghai. We had the chance to speak with Chan right after the restrictions were lifted to get her perspective on what is happening in Shanghai and discover how people are coping with the “zero Covid” policy. Read on for My Modern Met's exclusive interview.

Police Barricade in ShanghaiGated Locked in ShanghaiShanghai During Spring 2022 Covid LockdownWe first featured your work in February 2020, when the coronavirus seemed so far away to many of us in the States. Obviously, it's now touched everyone's lives. What's the biggest change you've seen in Shanghai since you took those first photos?

In Shanghai’s early days of the pandemic, people were encouraged to stay inside but there were no restrictions on movement. By summer of 2020, life was back to “normal.” People had returned to offices, nightlife had resumed, and there was a smug aura of victory.

Despite our return to “normalcy,” even one positive case would trigger hundreds of close contacts to be sent to hotel quarantines. This level of scrutiny is what earned Shanghai its reputation as the poster child for effective COVID management. Between the contact tracing, vaccination rate, and economic importance of the city, we naively believed that Shanghai must be immune to lockdown.

Now, we know better.

Shanghai is China’s richest, most international, and most cosmopolitan city. It is also the latest casualty of Covid Zero. Two and a half years after COVID emerged, any hope that restrictions would ease and borders reopen has dissipated. The fantasy that we overcame COVID has been violently squelched. Shanghai’s lockdown demonstrates China’s willingness to pursue Covid Zero no matter the cost. And seemingly, no matter the benefit.

As a photographer, my work in 2020 was about fear. This series is about confinement. Previously, we were scared of the virus. Now, we are scared of the government’s response to the virus. It is one of the few instances where the known is worse than the unknown.

Man Getting Tested for COVID in ShanghaiShanghai During Spring 2022 Covid LockdownTaking Dog Out During Shanghai LockdownFor those who may not know, can you explain the context around the new lockdown?

Shanghai entered lockdown on April 1 after reporting its highest daily number of COVID infections since the early days of the pandemic. What was originally announced as a “five-day” lockdown for testing purposes stretched into a 61-day lockdown with heavy regulations and zero transparency.

Lockdown in China is better understood as a combination between house arrest and martial law. You cannot leave your home outside of mandatory PCR testing. All shops are closed, public transportation is suspended, and local volunteers transform into prison guards. If you test positive for COVID, you will be forcibly moved to a quarantine facility. If you don’t test positive for COVID, you still might be forcibly moved to a quarantine facility for being a close contact.

Over the past two months, people have been denied critical medical care, been unable to buy food, been separated from their children, and caged into their homes. Though the citywide lockdown has been lifted, many people remain in lockdown today. The feeling of celebration has quickly devolved into suffocating anxiety that we can re-enter lockdown at any moment.

People Behind Gates During Shanghai LockdownShanghai Lockdown Diary by Nicole ChanDog Testing During Shanghai Covid LockdownHow was this latest lockdown different than what happened early in the pandemic?

Initially, there were no restrictions on mobility. People took a very cautious and serious approach to self-isolation with the 2002 SARS outbreak in mind. Now, China has a strict playbook on how to deal with outbreaks that is built on totalitarian lockdowns with aggressive mass testing. Compliance is no longer a request but a demand.

Previously, images of empty streets captured the feeling of COVID as people were confronted with the dangerous unknown. Now, images of people in captivity capture the feeling of lockdown as we are confronted with the dangerous known. Covid Zero is no longer a public health measure but an ideological battle, and we are merely collateral damage.

Woman in Shanghai Doing Covid TestPerson at their Window During the Shanghai Lockdown Covid Lockdown in ShanghaiThe “zero Covid” policy is very restrictive. How did you feel that people were dealing mentally with the lockdown?

It is impossible to overstate the devastating toll lockdown has on mental health. Even if you are a cheery, emotionally stable person, the feelings of isolation and entrapment will overwhelm you. You have minimal agency over your life with no end in sight. Every day is part of the same, horrible day. You marinate in stress. Regular outlets to regulate mood—perhaps a walk, exercising, or sitting at a café—are now inaccessible. Mental health resources are both understaffed and overloaded. Loneliness begets loneliness.

Our need for connection, touch, and love makes us human. Without it, we quickly become nothing.

Girls Hugging Through Gate During Shanghai LockdownGroup Celebrating the End of Lockdown in ShanghaiGroup Celebrating the End of Lockdown in ShanghaiIn your images, we can see some small gatherings of people. Did you feel like people were more willing to bend the rules this time?

In lockdown, there is no flexibility to “bend the rules.” You can be arrested for being uncooperative, which means you will be arrested for refusing to wear a mask, refusing a PCR test, or refusing to go to centralized quarantine. You will be arrested if caught exiting or entering a locked residential area.

There were small gatherings of people in the week leading up to reopening, as more and more people were allowed out of their compounds for a limited time. All venues were closed, so people celebrated brief reunions with makeshift curbside picnics. After photos and videos circulated of these gatherings, police quickly installed barriers along parks and sidewalks that remain today.

Person Working Out During Shanghai Covid LockdownPeople Sharing Food During Shanghai LockdownBoxed Food in Shanghai During LockdownLockdown was over on June 1, but several neighborhoods have already been closed back down just a day later. What is your sense of how people are feeling about the handling of the lockdowns? Does it make them feel safer?

Lockdown does not make people feel safer. Policymakers are incredibly opaque, and execution varies wildly. Lockdown has given birth to hundreds of mini tyrants that whimsically wreak havoc over residents’ lives. This lockdown has brought out rare instances of public protest in a deeply apolitical country where dissent carries swift repercussions.

Less than one week after “reopening,” large sections of the city have been placed back into lockdown and even bigger swaths are subjected to mandatory testing. The city continues to play whack-a-mole while the residents are forced to endure humiliation after humiliation. People are tired. People are fed up. People want basic dignity.

Nicole Chan: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Nicole Chan.

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READ: Photographer Shares Visual Diary of Lockdown in Shanghai Under “Zero Covid” Policy [Interview]

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Polish People Are Role Playing as Americans Celebrating the 4th of July https://mymodernmet.com/4th-of-july-larp-poland/ Wed, 08 Jun 2022 14:45:32 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=519314 Polish People Are Role Playing as Americans Celebrating the 4th of July

How do people from other countries view Americans? While it varies from person to person, one group is giving us a good idea of American vibes. A group in Poland called 4th of July LARP (LARP is short for live-action role-playing) dresses as Americans and acts out various scenarios that they imagine happening in the […]

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Polish People Are Role Playing as Americans Celebrating the 4th of July
Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

How do people from other countries view Americans? While it varies from person to person, one group is giving us a good idea of American vibes. A group in Poland called 4th of July LARP (LARP is short for live-action role-playing) dresses as Americans and acts out various scenarios that they imagine happening in the U.S. during the summer holiday.

The experiences of Americans are vast, but 4th of July LARP has an overarching theme that informs how they dress and behave. “LARP 4th of July is a drama about the wasted American dream,” the group writes on Facebook. “It is a story about hope, about a small homeland, about finding one's place in the community.”

Expanding on the idea, they speak to wealth inequality as a driving force behind their costuming and acting. “More than 200 years later, many Americans are living under different conditions than the nation’s founding fathers imagined. Barely making ends meet, they strive to be family members and worthy Americans, despite poverty and exclusion. Though they live on the margins of society, their home—a small town cluttered with caravans and windswept cabins—is for them the essence of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’”

The Polish folks cosplaying as Americans don the patriotic trappings of being in the U.S. They wear American flag shirts and hats while decorating their homes with flags. (It is the 4th of July, after all!) Even if there aren’t flags visible, the color palette of red, white, and blue is consistent throughout the images. But, that’s not all. The LARPers are dressed in tank tops and plenty of plaids all while kicking back with some Kentucky Fried Chicken and cold beverages.

According to comments made on the group’s Facebook page, Americans think that 4th of July LARP more or less has it right. “You’re getting there with the flags.” One person wrote. “Only another couple thousand,” they say, ending their comment with a couple of laughing emojis.

A group in Poland called 4th of July LARP (LARP is short for live-action role-playing) dresses as Americans and acts out various scenarios that they imagine happening in the U.S. during the holiday.

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

4th of July LARPing

Photo: Klaudia Zdanowska

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

The experiences of Americans are vast, but 4th of July LARP has an overarching theme that informs how they dress and behave.

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Maciej Margielski

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Klaudia Toruń

4th of July LARPing

Photo: Maciej Margielski

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Maciej Margielski

“LARP 4th of July is a drama about the wasted American dream,” the group writes on Facebook. “It is a story about hope, about a small homeland, about finding one's place in the community.”

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Maciej Margielski

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Maciej Margielski

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

The Polish folks cosplaying as Americans don the patriotic trappings of being in the US with hats, t-shirts, and plenty of flags.

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Klaudia Toruń

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

So, what do Americans think of 4th of July LARP? Many think that the group is spot on with their dress and set design.

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Maciej Margielski

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Klaudia Toruń

Polish People Dressing as Americans

Photo: Piotr Müller

4th of July LARP: Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by 4th of July LARP.

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READ: Polish People Are Role Playing as Americans Celebrating the 4th of July

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The History of Camera Obscura and How It Was Used as a Tool To Create Art in Perfect Perspective https://mymodernmet.com/camera-obscura/ Mon, 06 Jun 2022 02:40:15 +0000 https://mymodernmet.com/?p=305035 The History of Camera Obscura and How It Was Used as a Tool To Create Art in Perfect Perspective

Before the invention of the photographic camera, transferring a real-life image onto paper or another flat surface was no easy feat. Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci first described a mechanism that would make drawing in perfect perspective much easier to achieve, something that would later be known as camera obscura. Rather than meticulously measuring […]

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The History of Camera Obscura and How It Was Used as a Tool To Create Art in Perfect Perspective
Camera Obscura

A camera obscura device. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Before the invention of the photographic camera, transferring a real-life image onto paper or another flat surface was no easy feat. Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci first described a mechanism that would make drawing in perfect perspective much easier to achieve, something that would later be known as camera obscura. Rather than meticulously measuring out the lengths and angles of a subject or scene, camera obscura offers a shortcut. The controversial invention allowed artists to simply trace lines and shapes from a protected image onto their canvas.

 

What Is Camera Obscura?

Illustration of Camera Obscura

First published illustration of camera obscura in Gemma Frisius' book “De Radio Astronomica et Geometrica,” 1545 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Camera obscura (meaning “dark room” in Latin) is a box-shaped device used as an aid for drawing or entertainment. Also referred to as a pinhole image, it lets light in through a small opening on one side and projects a reversed and inverted image on the other.

 

How It Works

Camera Obscura

The camera obscura principle, illustrated by James Ayscough in “A short account of the eye and nature of vision,” 1755 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

As the name suggests, many historical camera obscura experiments were performed in dark rooms. The surroundings of the projected image have to be relatively dark for the image to be clear. The human eye works a lot like the camera obscura; both have an opening (pupil), a biconvex lens for refracting light, and a surface where the image is formed (retina).

Early camera obscura devices were large and often installed inside entire rooms or tents. Later, portable versions made from wooden boxes often had a lens instead of a pinhole, allowing users to adjust the focus. Some camera obscura boxes also featured an angled mirror, allowing the image to be projected the right way up.

 

The History of Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura Box Illustration

A 19th-century illustration of a camera obscura box with mirror, with an upright projected image at the top (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The earliest written record of the camera obscura theory can be found in the studies of Chinese philosopher and the founder of Mohism, Mozi (470 to 390 BCE). He recorded that the image in a camera obscura is flipped upside down because light travels in straight lines from its source.

Diagram of Camera Obscura

Anthemius of Tralles's diagram of light-rays reflected with plane mirror through hole (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

During the 4th century, Greek philosopher Aristotle noticed that sunlight passing through gaps between leaves projects an image of an eclipsed sun on the ground. The phenomenon was also noted by 6th-century Greek mathematician and co-architect of the Hagia Sophia, Anthemius of Tralles, who used a type of camera obscura in his experiments. During the 9th century, Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician Al-Kindi also experimented with light and a pinhole.

Familiar with these early studies, Leonardo da Vinci published the first clear description of the camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus (1502), a 12-volume bound set of his drawings and writings where he also talked about other inventions such as flying machines and musical instruments. He wrote (translated from Latin):

If the facade of a building, or a place, or a landscape is illuminated by the sun and a small hole is drilled in the wall of a room in a building facing this, which is not directly lighted by the sun, then all objects illuminated by the sun will send their images through this aperture and will appear, upside down, on the wall facing the hole. You will catch these pictures on a piece of white paper, which placed vertically in the room not far from that opening, and you will see all the above-mentioned objects on this paper in their natural shapes or colors, but they will appear smaller and upside down, on account of crossing of the rays at that aperture. If these pictures originate from a place that is illuminated by the sun, they will appear colored on the paper exactly as they are. The paper should be very thin and must be viewed from the back.

Over the years, Da Vinci drew around 270 diagrams of camera obscura devices in his sketchbooks.

Camera Obscura

A drawing comparing the human eye to a camera obscura from Leonardo da Vinci's “Codex Atlanticus,” 1490–1495 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

During the 15th century, other artists began to see the potential of using the camera obscura as a drawing aid. However, using the device sparked controversy, as many viewed the tracing method as cheating.

 

Johannes Vermeer and Camera Obscura

Although there is no documented evidence to prove it, art historians have suggested that 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer used the camera obscura as an aid to create his paintings. The theory is based on studies of the artworks themselves. Beneath the surface of his paintings, there are no signs that he made any corrections to his layouts as he worked. Instead, Vermeer created a shadowy image outlining the scene before painting, perhaps based on a projected image.

Johannes Vermeer and Camera Obscura

Johannes Vermeer, “Officer and Laughing Girl,” 1657 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The first person to publicly propose the possibility that Vermeer used a camera obscura was American artist Joseph Pennell. In 1891, he noticed that the man in the foreground of Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl (1657) was shown nearly twice as large as the girl he sat facing—just as the scene would appear in a photograph.

Even if Vermeer did use the camera obscura to achieve photographic perspective, his talent shouldn’t be diminished. Painter and writer of Traces of Vermeer (2017), Jane Jelley, writes, “The image from the camera obscura is merely a projection. To capture and transfer this to canvas requires skill, judgment, and time; and its product can only ever be part of the process of making a painting. We can never know if Vermeer worked this way, but we should remember that this is not a mindless process and not a shortcut to success.”

 

How to Make Your Own Camera Obscura

Despite its long history, camera obscuras haven't completely fallen out of fashion. Some contemporary photographers and artists continue to utilize these devices as visual aids.

Additionally, because of their simple design, camera obscuras make fun DIY projects for children and adults alike. All you need to get started is some cardboard, a magnifying glass, a paper bag, some tape, and glue.

This article has been edited and updated.

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READ: The History of Camera Obscura and How It Was Used as a Tool To Create Art in Perfect Perspective

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