Category Archives: Photography

When the mass paparazzi instinct turns lethal


The invention of the cell phone [thanks, Hedy Lamar] and the decision to use it to house first still, then moving image cameras, complete with sound capability, have transformed daily life.

Throw in the Internet and the rise of viral videos and still images made each of us all vigilant for opportunities for images to share, both free and for profit.

As Benedict Evans, trend analyst for the Silicon Valley investment bankers at Andreessen Horowitz noted last year, “more photos will be taken this year than were taken on film in the entire history of the analogue [film] camera business.”

While this technology enables us to creative a documentary record unparalleled in human history, the omnipresence of the camera plus the egoistic drive to assert olur being in the world can lead to mishaps, especially when we all turn paparazzi simultaneously when presented with an irresistible image.

We’ve heard of lethal selfie accidents, when folks seeking to self-immortalize end up proving self mortality.

But then there the time times when the same drive leads to death of the object of our visual obsession.

From the Associated Press:

A mountain goat in Alaska jumped into the ocean to get away from crowds snapping its picture, and the animal drowned when it couldn’t get back to land because of the crush of people on shore.

Alaska State Troopers say it’s imperative to give animals adequate space. That didn’t happen Saturday in downtown Seward, and troopers say in an online post that it “resulted in a wild animal dying for no cause.”

It comes amid a series of incidents of people getting too close to wildlife, including tourists in Yellowstone National Park who picked up a bison calf they thought was abandoned. It had to be euthanized.

 In Alaska, troopers got a call about people harassing the goat and another about a large group following it onto the breakwater rocks.

There’s a reason they call Paris the ‘City of Light’


BLOG Paris

From NASA’s Earth Observatory, where you can find a much larger version of the image, a stunning look at Paris at night:

Around local midnight, astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Paris, often referred to as the “City of Light.” The second image below is a close-up drawn from the same photo.

The pattern of the street grid dominates at night, providing a completely different set of visual features from those visible during the day. For instance, the winding Seine River is a main visual cue by day, but here the thin black line of the river is hard to detect until you focus on the strong meanders and the street lights on both banks.

The brightest boulevard in the dense network of streets is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the historical axis of the city, as designed in the 17th century. Every year on Bastille Day (July 14), the largest military parade in Europe processes down the Champs Élysées, reviewed by the President of the Republic. This grand avenue joins the royal Palace of the Tuileries—whose gardens appear as a dark rectangle on the river—to the star-like meeting place of eleven major boulevards at the Arc de Triomphe. This famous plaza is also referred to as the Étoile, or “star.”.

Astronaut photograph ISS043-E-93480 was acquired on April 8, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 43 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.

The neighborhood giant also wears a halo


Auroras on Jupiter

Auroras on Jupiter

The largest planet in our solar system, the one known for its bright, bright spot, also has a big, bright halo.

From NASA’s HubbleSite:

Astronomers are using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter.

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using the ultraviolet capabilities of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The extraordinary vivid glows shown in the new observations are known as auroras. They are created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas. As well as producing beautiful images, this program aims to determine how various components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun.

This observation program is perfectly timed as NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently in the solar wind near Jupiter and will enter the orbit of the planet in early July 2016. While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself — a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe.

“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen,” said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK, and principal investigator of the study. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a fireworks party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Sign of the times: Yes, it really is a street sign


BLOG Sign

And it’s painted on streets in Basel, Switzerland, the result of pressure on police [in German] to regulate the activities of the 30 to 50 of the city’s prostitutes who chose to solicit customers on the streets rather than the approach taken by the 650 or so other sex workers who either solicit in bars or through advertisements posted in bars.

That dotted line represents the limits beyond which they will be arrested and charged or soliciting boulevardiers out for a good time.

Police report that the overwhelming majority of sex workers are Eastern Europeans, leading police to adopt an icon rather than a written notice.

California burning, images captured from space


While Donald Trump insists that California’s near-epochal drought is but a myth, it ain’t necessarily so.

Indeed, the state is tinder dry.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Cal fire

More form NASA:

A wildfire burning northeast of Bakersfield, California, is the state’s largest so far in 2016, according to news reports. It has also been called the season’s a most destructive fire. As of June 27, the Erskine fire had scorched 18,368 hectares (45,388 acres), destroyed at least 250 structures, and was responsible for at least two deaths.

The top image shows the region at 3:34 a.m. Pacific Time on June 26, 2016. It was acquired with the day-night band (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The DNB can detect relatively dim signals such as city lights and reflected moonlight. In this case it also shows the glow of wildfire.

The second image shows the fire later that same day. This natural-color image was acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected warm surface temperatures associated with fires. Winds carried smoke from the fire northward.

The fire first ignited on June 23 due to a yet-unknown cause. On the date these images were acquired, the fire had burned 17,588 hectares (43,460 acres). As of June 27, the fire was 40 percent contained and continued to pose a threat to structures.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, above normal fire potential is expected to expand into the Sierras and central coast region of California as summer progresses. According to the outlook: “The highest potential may be over the Sierra Foothills where a severe, multiyear drought has exacted a toll on the vegetation of the area.”

And there will be more to come, thanks to a massive die-off of California’s pine, fir, and cedar forests.

From United Press International:

California’s climate has always been hospitable to fire – it comes with the territory. But add five years of drought, a bark beetle blight killing trees by the millions and rising temperatures, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We are seeing the compounded effects of climate change that includes five consecutive years of drought and rising mean temperatures across the West – last year was the hottest year on record,” said Janet Upton, deputy director of communications at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “All that is trending to a more flammable California.”

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 26 million trees had died in six counties in the southern Sierra Nevada since October. Adding in an estimated 40 million dead trees counted since October 2010, it brings the statewide tree mortality to at least 66 million in less than six years.

High rates of tree mortality are being driven by bark beetles in combination with the state’s drought. Like fire, bark beetles are a natural part of the state’s ecology and a way for nature to weed out the weak and keep forests healthy. But when the trees suffer from drought, they no longer have their natural defense mechanism to fight off bark beetles. “Trees draw up moisture and push the beetle out,” said Upton. “With the drought, they couldn’t draw the moisture needed to do that.” And that has led to a bark beetle explosion – to epidemic levels.

Hardest hit so far has been the southern Sierra. “We identified six high-hazard counties and now we’ve added four more,” said Upton. The bark beetle blight is marching to the north.

And now for something completely different. . .


How about a drone and a couple of whales?

From the Auckland University of Technology:

Rare whale footage shot by drone thanks to AUT scientists

Program notes:

Unique footage of a Bryde’s Whale has been released by Auckland University of Technology. The footage shows an adult whale feeding, briefly joined by a young calf, and was filmed from a drone off the coast of Auckland. It is thought to be the first time the feeding behaviour of a Bryde’s Whale has been recorded by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

The footage was captured by AUT post-graduate students, Ticiana Fetterman and Lorenzo Fiori, while on the water conducting their respective Masters and PhD research. They were stunned to glimpse the whales, and to share the rarely seen moment with their research supervisor Dr Barbara Bollard Breen.

“Bryde’s Whales are critically threatened in New Zealand, so it’s thrilling to see them in the wild and to be able to record them feeding from above is very special,” says the Senior Lecturer in Geospatial Science.

“Using a UAV allowed Ticiana and Lorenzo to film without disturbing the surrounding wildlife – revealing footage of the whales feeding that we wouldn’t have been able to see from a boat-based survey.”

The team was using a custom-built multirotor UAV, one of a number of drones used by AUT’s Institute for Applied Ecology in their conservation and ecology research.

It flew at a distance of at least 40 meters from the whales, while recording clear, detailed footage. The adult whale is estimated to be approximately 12 metres long, 12 tonnes in weight and 10 years old.

Satellite snaps record high Texas floodwaters


Two photographs taken three years apart give a sense of scale of the epochal floodwaters now inundating Texas riverine flood plains.

The images, via NASA’s Earth Observatory,  capture the Brazos River, which ahs taken at least six lives since the flood began, and they reflect conditions near Monaville, a town roughly 45 miles west of Houston.

The first image, taken 4 May 2013 reflects conditions typical for this time of year:

BLOG Flood 2015

The second was captured last Saturday [28 May] and waters have risen even higher since:

BLOG Flood 2016

More from NASA:

Just six weeks after being drenched by record-setting rainfall, much of Texas has been inundated again by a seemingly endless stream of slow-moving thunderstorm systems. Water levels on the Brazos River, near Houston, crested higher than they have in more than a century. The Texas governor declared states of emergency in 31 counties by June 1, 2016.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired these images of southeastern Texas on May 28, 2016 (top) and May 4, 2013 (second image). The top image shows flooding along the Brazos River just west of Monaville, while the second image shows the river when it was well within its banks. In 2014, the river nearly ran dry in places due to drought. The images below from the same days show the wider scale of the flooding.

On June 2, 2016, the Brazos River rose to 54.81 feet, according to gauges near Richmond, Texas. (The previous record was 50.30 feet on October 21, 1994.) Downstream at Rosharon, the river reached 51.97 feet; anything above 51.3 feet is considered major flooding at that point. Forecasters expect water levels to remain high for up to three weeks because more storms are predicted for early June and because swollen reservoirs upstream will need to release water.

According to news reports, at least six people have died and hundreds have been evacuated by boat from flooded homes. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of buildings and homes have been damaged, and many roads have been closed.

The intense rainfall capped off the wettest month in Texas history, with a state average of 7.54 inches. The previous record was 6.66 inches in 2004. According to news sources, Texas was doused with more than 35 trillion gallons of rain in the month. Meteorologists attribute the wet spring to lingering effects of El Niño and to kinks in the jet stream that have slowed down weather systems while drawing in moisture from the warm Gulf of Mexico. Houston has received 24.84 inches of rain since March 1; the norm is 11.64 inches.

More from ABC News:

The Brazos River at Richmond has crested at a historic level at 55 feet, more than five feet about the previous record set in 1994. The river is so overcapacity that it is spilling into typically untouched areas, according to the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. It will remain in major flood stage through the weekend.

More than 1,400 homes have been affected by the flooded Brazos River. The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is urging residents not to return to their homes. Four hundred and fifty-four rescues have taken place in the area so far.

Six people died from floods along the Brazos River after four days of heavy rain over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.

Five of the dead were Army infantry troops swept away on a tributary of the Brazos. CNN reports:

Fort Hood commanders were closing some roads on the Army base in Texas at the time floodwaters overturned a truck on a training mission, killing at least five soldiers and leaving four more missing, Christopher Haug, spokesman for the post, said Friday.

But Haug said the troops learning to operate the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle were not sent out in conditions too dangerous for training.

“It was a situation where the rain had come and the water was rising quickly,” he said. “They regularly pass through these weather conditions like this. This was a tactical vehicle, and at the time they were in proper place. Just an unfortunate accident that occurred quickly.”

The Army — with help from civilian agencies — is using ground, air and dog teams in the search for the missing soldiers, who were swept away by the rising waters of Owl Creek.

And it’s not just Texas that’s flooding

Europe is experiencing similar conditions.

From BBC News:

The River Seine in Paris is at its highest level for more than 30 years, with floods forcing closed parts of the metro systems and major landmarks.

The Louvre and Orsay museums were shut while staff moved artworks to safety as flood levels climbed above 6m (18ft).

The Seine is set to reach as high as 6.5m and unlikely to recede over the weekend, with more downpours forecast.

At least 15 people have died across central Europe as heavy rainfall caused flooding from France to Ukraine.

While two people died in France, 10 were killed in southern Germany as several towns were devastated.