Category: photography

Transition

autumn-frost-artwork

This week’s post is inspired by some artwork I did in my very first Photoshop class about three years ago. It was based on a poem by Lewis Carroll called “A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky.” The class assignment required all of the students to do a “nonrepresentational” (abstract) artwork based on one line of the poem. The line I chose was “Autumn frosts have slain July.”

I know this line deals with the transition between summer and fall, but I think this assignment came to my mind today because we have reached another transitional time of year. The end of November is almost near, and soon it will be Christmas! My goal for this week’s post is to present images that capture the transition between autumn and winter when the bright reds, oranges, and browns of fall give way to the silver, gray, and white shades of winter frost and snow.

Dandelion in Fall

By Michael Chamberlain [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Rose und Eis

By 3268zauber (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Trees covered in frost filmed in HDR

By Scott Hudson [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Glacier-Lyman-Tamarack

By Marshmallow from Seattle, WA, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

Lyman Glacier below Chiwawa Mountain (8459 feet, 2578 m) from about 1 km north of Spider Gap (USGS Holden) in Glacier Peak Wilderness; Larix lyallii (golden), Abies lasiocarpa (green, foreground center) and Pinus albicaulis (green, foreground right) (Washington)

Frosted Landscape

By Axel Kristinsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Frosted Landscape Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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(Camera) Trick or Treat

 

Ghosts and other paranormal phenomena are popular topics of interest even when it is not Halloween. People want to know what awaits them after they die, and the paranormal provides hints about this mystery. However, there is great debate about whether or not the paranormal is real or just a product of people’s overactive imaginations. The pictures and stories in this week’s post were supposed to help settle the debate as proof of the existence of paranormal phenomena, but mostly what materialized was proof of fraud and deception.

Cottingley Fairies

In the 1920s, two young girls living in Cottingley, England, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, took a series of five photographs that supposedly captured images of fairies. The images became famous after they caught the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the popular Sherlock Holmes mysteries. He used the Cottingley Fairy pictures in an article about fairies that was published in The Strand Magazine. According to Wikipedia, Doyle described the photos as “clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena.”

Cottingley Fairies 1

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Cottingley Fairies 2

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Cottingley Fairies 3

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Cottingley Fairies 4

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Cottingley sunbath

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However, not everyone agreed with Doyle. While initial examinations of the pictures concluded they were not “faked” photos, later studies of the photos in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that the fairies were fake. After many decades of denial, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths finally confessed that the fairies were actually figures made out of painted cardboard. However, both of them declared they had actually seen fairies even though they were not able to capture them on film, and Griffiths insisted that the fifth photograph of the fairies was real.

Sources:

Cottingley Fairies (Wikipedia)

The Cottingley Fairies – Museum of Hoaxes

Spirit Photography

As a visual medium of sorts, spirit photography reunited departed people with living ones (usually relatives or friends). Two notable spirit photographers were William H. Mumler (1832-1884), who began taking these pictures in the 1860s, and William Hope (1863-1933), who began his career as a spiritual photographer in 1905. Here are some examples of their work:

William H. Mumler

Mumler (Lincoln)
By William H Mumler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Photo Description:

Picture of the ghost of Abraham Lincoln with Mary Lincoln

Mumler (French)
By William H Mumler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

An image of ‘Mrs French’ with a ghost.

John J. Glover
By William H. Mumler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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William Hope

Williamhopehoax1

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Photo Description:

A “Spirit photograph” taken by the Crewe Circle, and the known paranormal hoaxer William Hope.

Taken in 1919, this picture supposedly depicts Mr and Mrs Gibson and the spirit of their deceased son.

Couple with Spirit
By National Media Museum [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

Couple with a young female spirit

Couple with a spirit in their car
By National Media Museum from UK [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo description:

Creator: William Hope (1863 – 1933) Date: c. 1920 Collection: National Media Museum Collection Inventory no: 2002-5054/13 Blog: G is for ghosts… the birth and rise of spirit photography Two of William Hope’s friends lean on their motor car whilst a figure – the couple’s deceased son – is revealed at the wheel. Hope had suggested a photo opportunity for the ‘chance’ of obtaining a spirit impression.

For a while, Mumler and Hope were able to find a market for their haunted portraits, but eventually both of them were exposed as frauds. In 1869, Mumler literally faced a legal charge of fraud because of his spirit photography. At one point in his trial, the prosecution was able to show that one of the ghosts in Mumler’s photographs was actually a living person. While the prosecution’s evidence was not strong enough to convict Mumler for fraud, it was strong enough to ruin his reputation and his career.

In 1922, the authenticity of William Hope’s work was called into question after Hope failed a test conducted by paranormal investigator Harry Price for the Society of Psychical Research. In 1932, a second study conducted by Fred Barlow, a former friend of Hope, and Major W. Rampling-Rose for the Society of Psychical Research further concluded that the spirits in Hope’s photos were fake. These findings, however, did not ruin Hope’s career. People still supported him, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sources:

Spirit Photography

William H. Mumler

Do You Believe? The Mumler Mystery – The American Museum of Photography

William Hope

Supernatural (And Supercreepy) Spirit Photos Of William Hope

As I finish writing this post, two questions haunt me:

  • Do these photos have artistic merit despite the fact that they are considered hoaxes?
  • Will we ever be able to capture a truly authentic paranormal photo? With Photoshop and other image editing software, the potential for creating realistic-looking fake ghosts, fairies, and other paranormal creatures exists now more than ever. With so many camera tricks possible now, perhaps photography is not the best medium to resolve the debate about the existence of paranormal phenomena.

Nature’s Black Thumb

While I enjoy looking at spring blossoms and autumn foliage, I also realize that there is a dark side to nature that is filled with bizarre and unsettling life forms. Many of these life forms, including the strange yet fascinating plants and fungi in this week’s post, draw attention to the forces of decomposition and destruction that are ironically so much a part of life.

The corpse plant and Jimson weed are prime examples of nature’s odd choice to mimic the stench of decay and death in plants that are not actually dead.

Corpse Plant (Amorphophallus titanum)
Corpse plants are renowned for their huge flowers that smell like rotting meat. This scent attracts pollinators that benefit the plant. Despite the horrible odor, people get excited about seeing a corpse plant in bloom because it is a rare event. It can take up to 7-10 years for a corpse plant to produce one large stinking flower that can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall.

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Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorphophallus_titanum

Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium)
This plant is not only smelly but also poisonous. While it has some positive medicinal uses, it can also literally cause death when people try to ingest it for what Wikipedia calls its “psychoactive effects.” I cannot believe people would actually risk their lives just to get high on this poisonous plant! Needless to say, many of these Jimson weed eaters end up in the hospital, and some of them end up in the grave.

Jimson weed actually has a nice appearance while in bloom, and the flowers supposedly have a nice scent as well. However, the rest of the plant stinks, which discourages animals from eating it, and the seed pods look like something out of a horror movie.

Datura stramonium Flower
By Skäpperöd https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Datura_str_tat5.JPG

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Datura stramonium, Wroclaw, Poland
By Nova
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bielu%C5%84_dzi%C4%99dzierzawa_Datura_stramonium_Seed_01.jpg

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Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_stramonium
http://www.floridata.com/ref/d/datu_str.cfm

Tumbleweeds
Most people have probably seen tumbleweeds in Western movies. They are essentially dead plants, and their main purpose is to scatter seeds wherever they roll. One lone tumbleweed or a few tumbleweeds are pretty harmless, but a windstorm can easily blow together a large group of them into an invading army of dead plant balls that blocks roads and traps people in their homes.

Here is an example of how easily tumbleweeds can converge upon a physical structure and take it over:

Tumbleweeds Catcher – Salt Lake City – USA 1972 – 01
By Gianni Pettena (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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If you want to see some major tumbleweed entrapment, you should check out these stories:

6-foot tall tumbleweeds taking over homes near Weedpatch should be cleared by Monday

Always wondered where tumbleweeds go? Family’s home left covered in giant plants after Texas wind storms

Attack of the tumbleweeds! Blowing tumbleweeds block roads

Resident trapped in homes by tumbleweed

Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)
Also known as a corpse plant or Indian pipe, this rare plant has a pale white or pinkish appearance because of an absence of chlorophyll. Although its paleness may make it look ghostlike, it actually functions more like a vampire. It does not preserve life but slowly takes it away. It is a parasitic plant that feeds on trees, and it thrives in a dark forest environment.

Corpse Plant
By liz west (originally posted to Flickr as corpse plant) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indian pipe PDB
By Unknown https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_pipe_PDB.JPG

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Night Light Fungi

Fungi are more examples of life emerging from decomposition and death. They live in soil and on decaying matter such as rotting logs. What makes some of them freakier than others is the ability to glow in the dark. The technical term for light produced by living organisms is bioluminescence. The eerie green glow of bioluminescent fungi is made possible by a chemical reaction between an enzyme called luciferase and a compound called luciferin.

I find myself wondering how I would react to seeing these glowing fungi at night in the wild. Would I be delighted to see them, or would I want to stay away from them? I certainly would not eat them because most of them are poisonous.

Jack O’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius)

Omphalotus olearius
By Antonio Abbatiello  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Omphalotus_olearius.JPG

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Omphalotus olearius 33857
By Noah Siegel (Amanita virosa)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Omphalotus_olearius_33857.jpg

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Mycena chlorophos
By Own work lalalfdfa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mycena_chlorophos.jpg

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Bitter Oyster (Panellus stipticus)
PanellusStipticusAug12 2009
By Ylem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PanellusStipticusAug12_2009.jpg

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As the seasons change and time passes, don’t forget that death and decay underlie life and that nature has a black thumb as well as a green one.

The Witching Post

Witches stir up fear and interest because of their mysterious powers and rituals. As a result, places and things associated with witches often possess a dark mystique too. In this week’s post, I will present some examples of what is bewitched in our universe.

Tuhala Witch’s Well
By Ivar Leidus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-ee], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

Witch’s Well (karst spring) in Tuhala (Estonia) is “boiling over”. Water erupts for only a short period of time and not every year. It starts to come out from the well when excess water from the Mahtra swamp fills up the underground river and the overflowing river water seeks an escape through the well. According to local legend, the well boils over when the witches of Tuhala make a sauna below the ground and beat each other with birch branches, causing a commotion on the surface.

Pebble Beach Witch Tree
By EditorASC at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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This creepy looking tree was a famous landmark at Pescadero Point in Pebble Beach, California. The reason I refer to it in the past tense is that a storm destroyed it on January 14, 1964. Although the Witch Tree was not a site of witchcraft rituals, it appeared in a dark scene in a movie. According to Wikipedia, it was “part of the background in an early scene from the 1956 movie Julie, featuring Doris Day, while she was fleeing from her psychopathic husband, played by Louis Jourdan.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_Beach,_California

Witch’s circle, Corfu, 1990
By Barry Lewis (The Witch’s Craic) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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This place looks scary enough to be a meeting place for witches. I keep thinking some dark stories lurk behind those black tree stumps in the middle of the photo.

Photo Description:

A sacred circle where feral witches meet to ceilidh or make mischief. This one spotted on the Greek island of Corfu in 1990.

Witch head nebula
By NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Apparently even outer space is haunted by a witch.

Photo description:

 As the name implies, this reflection nebula associated with the star Rigel looks suspiciously like a fairytale crone. Formally known as IC 2118 in the constellation Orion, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from the star. The color of this very blue nebula is caused not only by blue color of its star, but also because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. A similar physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue.

As I finish writing this post, the witching hour of midnight approaches here in California, so I will say farewell to you for now.

Haunting Skyscapes

For the month of October, I plan to write some posts that tap into the spooky side of life that receives so much attention during Halloween. This week my search for photos that capture the autumn transition into growing darkness led me to one strange looking aerial shot and several dramatic cloud photos.

Grand prismatic spring, Yellowstone National Park
By Jim Peaco, National Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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While this is not officially an autumn picture, it has a mysterious quality to it. It reminds me just how old the Earth is and that there is so much that we do not know about the Earth in spite of our technological advances. I can hardly believe this is a photograph. It looks like a painting. Here is the photo description:

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring; Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet (75 by 91 m) in size.

This photo shows steam rising from hot and sterile deep azure blue water (owing to the light absorbing overtone of an OH stretch which is shifted to 698 nm by hydrogen bonding [1]) in the center surrounded by huge mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria. The color of which is due to the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoid molecules produced by the organisms. During summertime the chlorophyll content of the organisms is low and thus the mats appear orange, red, or yellow. However during the winter, the mats are usually dark green, because sunlight is more scarce and the microbes produce more chlorophyll to compensate, thereby masking the carotenoid colors.

Water mill Rosenmühle in Lower Saxony, Germany
By Michael Gäbler (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Fog creates a creepy atmosphere in most places (and it is a nightmare to drive in it as well).

After Tornado Cloudscape
By Alex Grichenko
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=51007&picture=after-tornado-cloudscape

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Lightning cloud to cloud (aka)
By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

This image shows a cloud to cloud lightning in a very stormy and rainy night in Zwickau, Germany.

Back-scattering crepuscular rays panorama 1 (retouched photo)
By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

Back-scattering crepuscular rays. The image was sent to Dr. Andrew T. Young. Here’s his description:

“… it’s unusual to see these shadows so clearly at such an oblique geometry: usually, the crepuscular rays are best seen in forward scattering, and much less well in back-scattering. But here, you’re looking almost at right angles to the illuminating rays”.

In spite of seeing countless cloud and skyscape photos over the years, I do not get tired of looking at them. They are a source of ever-changing beauty and inspiration.

On a Grand Scale

Scale is an important aspect of photography as well as art and design. The size of one object in relation to another can make the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary photo. Here are some examples that illustrate this point:

Fiorello LaGuardia with halibut (1939)
By  C. M. Stieglitz, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

Fiorello H. LaGuardia, mayor of New York City, posing with a 300-pound halibut at the Fulton Fish Market.

Paaseiland Kempeneers (1978)
By Paul Kempeneers (Personal collection of Paul Kempeneers) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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This is one of the Moai statues on Easter Island.

Cristales cueva de Naica (2010)
By Alexander Van Driessche [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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These giant gypsum crystals are located inside Cueva de Naica, a cave located in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. Other names for this cave are Cave of the Crystals and Giant Crystal Cave.

Giant christmas ball (2004)
By Scott Sandars from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Grand Kanin, Sweden (2011)
By F (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

 Its a big rabbit in Orebro in front of church , the bunny was placed here upside down and was major attraction to tourists. It was placed here in summer 2011, during the OpenArt biennale. See this object at the site of artist Florentijn Hofman

This bunny looks like it was resting against the church, but it was not. It was actually propped up against another statue in front of the church. Here is another photo of the yellow bunny taken at a different angle:

Florentijn Hofman Big yellow Rabbit
By Peterappelros (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Description:

From the exhibition OpenART in Örebro, Sweden, 2011: Florentijn Hofman Big yellow Rabbit

Sea Caves

Inspired by International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I decided to write a post about a topic loosely related to pirates—sea caves. Sea caves are formed by wave action. Ocean waves crashing upon the side of a cliff hit a weak area in the rock day after day and year after year, and a hole eventually forms. While some sea caves consist of pale weathered stone, others are quite colorful.

The first two photos are from the Geograph Project collection, which contains images taken in Great Britain and Ireland.

Y Bwa Gwyn and a sea cave – geograph.org.uk (Great Britain)
By Eric Jones [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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The sea cave is to the right of the arch.

Sea cave on Eilean Trodday – geograph.org.uk (Scotland)
By Bob Jones [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Photo description:

Sea cave on Eilean Trodday Amazing blue water and a cave that you can take a rubber dinghy into and out again from another exit. Eilean Trodday is an uninhabited island lying off the northeastern coastline of the Trotternish peninsula of the island of Skye.

The next two photos show the Animal Flower Cave in Barbados. Based on the photographer’s lengthy description of the cave, it was a hidden hangout of sorts a long time ago in spite of the sea anemones that inspired the name of the cave.

The animal flower cave, Barbados
By Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Photo Description:

The Animal Flower Cave is located under the cliffs at the Northern tip of Barbados. The Cave is an interesting study in geology, local history and stunning sea activity. This beautiful Sea-Cave is a ‘must see’ for all nature loving visitors. The cave?s [cave’s] history is little-known yet quite interesting, for despite its remote location, it was the venue weekend dances and socializing soon after the turn of the century. Artifacts from by gone days include the braces in the coral ceiling where the lanterns once hung. The Animal flower Cave is the islands lone accessible sea-cave and was discovered from the sea in 1780 by two English explorers. The cave’s coral floor is estimated to be 400000 to 500000 years old and the ‘younger’ coral section above the floor is about 126000 years old. The dating was carried out by the German Geographical Institute, and visitors can see a map of the dating work in the bar and restaurant. The cave now stands some six feet above the high tide mark even though it was formed at sea level. This is because Barbados is rising about one inch per 1000 years, which is yet another indication of the cave’s age. The huge coral steps leading down into the cave were built around 1912. Down in the cave there are sea-anemones, locally called ‘animal flowers’ from whence the cave got its name. The flower consists of tentacles that can sting and paralyse [paralyze] a passing fish in the larger variety of species. The tentacles retract into the stalk or stump for safety on contact with an alien object like a stick. The flower then waits a while before coming out of the stalk again to allow danger to pass. The swimming pool as the guides call it is in a chamber all by itself. The totally transparent and absolutely still water does not reveal its depth but looks deceptively shallow. The smooth floor of the cave worn down by the water and the rubbing action of the coral rocks over time has an undulating formation and the light lends a magical quality to this chamber. At certain times of the year and in bad weather the caverns become filled with water and the entrance acts like a giant blowhole. On calm days you can swim in the natural rock pools in the cave or perhaps take a look at the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean through the windows to the ocean (cave openings).

Waterdrops in the Animal Flower Cave, Barbados
By Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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I am hardly proficient at talking like a pirate, but I hope you have fair winds and smooth sailing until we meet again online.