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Grand Canyon

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The time to enter the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is running short -- entries will be accepted for another few days, until June 30, 2013. The first prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the later entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. Also, be sure to see Part 1, earlier on In Focus. [46 photos]

From the 'Sense of Place' category, a couple paddle out for a sunset surf in the coastal surfing town of Byron Bay, Australia. (© Ming Nomchong/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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Police Car Blood Tornado Explosion Man might not be the most popular superhero out there, but he gets the job done.

In a good and just world, all promising games would get Kickstarted, and everyone would live happily ever after. Also, clothes would always feel fresh out of the laundry and chocolate would be the cure for war. Unfortunately, however, our world is not just, and calling it “good” is probably a bit of a stretch. That depressing tangent brings us to Project Awakened. It failed to pass muster on Kickstarter, in spite of promising our neither good nor just world, er, the world. But sometimes, the best ideas only spring to mind when backs are pressed firmly against the wall, and Phosphor’s certainly hatched an intriguing one. In short, it plans to gauge interest in a second crowdfunding effort, but this time it’ll run its own site and – here’s the Kickstarter-stomping kicker – declare backers “partial owners” of the property.

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Mike Bruce

503.384544 square kilometers of Yosemite Valley printed on 6,160 sheets of paper

For a century and a half, photographers have been incorporating a wide range of tools and agendas in their efforts to document the landscape of the American West. Among the lensmen who use more unexpected techniques is U.K.-based Dan Holdsworth, whose latest body of work, Transmission, takes data gleaned from radar scans done by the U.S. Geological Survey to create virtual models of American landscapes. By showing storied locations such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite in a new way, Holdsworth pays tribute to, and advances, the history of the genre.

The rich and ongoing history of landscape photography in the American West had very practically-minded origins. As interest in the region surged throughout the 19th century, enterprising railroad companies and government organizations sent out small armies of scientists, cartographers, illustrators and photographers to sample, survey and record the recently acquired territories. The best of the photographers, like Carleton Watkins and Timothy O’Sullivan, produced work that transcended the scientific genre. Theirs was a vision of an untouched land of sublime grandeur.

Fast-forward a century. Shopping malls and parking lots stretch from Trenton to Tacoma. A group of photographers including Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and Joe Deal started producing work that would become known as the “New Topographics.” Instead of scrubbing their images of any trace of man, they focused on him. As Baltz once recalled: “I was living in Monterey, a place where the classic photographers — the Westons, Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams — came for a privileged view of nature. But my daily life very rarely took me to Point Lobos or Yosemite; it took me to shopping centers, and gas stations and all the other unhealthy growth that flourished beside the highway. It was a landscape that no one else had much interest in looking at.” Man had sullied the sublime.

For years, the U.S. Geological Survey has used satellite-borne radar to survey much of the United States, and the amount of data collected is staggering. Gallery shows of Transmission include a stack of over 6,000 sheets of paper containing the XYZ coordinate points necessary to map just over 300 square miles of Yosemite Valley alone. Holdsworth appropriated this data (as well as some from Open Topography), and with the help of a university geologist, created computer models of the land. He used a software program to remove everything but the basic contours of the earth and the occasional trace of a road or building. (In a way other photographers may envy, Holdsworth was even able to alter the direction of the virtual sunlight, thus controlling the time of “day.”) After he created these 3D worlds, he was able to navigate them at will—peering over the edge of a volcano, or down the corridors of canyons.

From the millions of square miles of mapped territory, Holdsworth carefully chose five locations—the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount St. Helens, Mount Shasta and Salt Lake City, Utah—for his series. The first four were among the places the early photographers of the Romantic Sublime made their awesome, unpeopled images. And it was near the last one, Salt Lake City, Utah, where Lewis Baltz made his seminal New Topographics project on suburban sprawl. Holdsworth thus references the history of the medium but, with his new method, moves the ball forward. As Emma Lewis writes in her essay on the work, “Looking at the world as though from space, Transmission evokes a sense of capturing something that has never been seen before; something especially powerful as these landscapes have been so visually reproduced throughout history as to become embedded in the popular conscience.” But they do not merely look new; in their method, they evoke our current era of potentially terrifying technology such as the Gorgon Stare, the U.S. government drone camera whose eyes are said to be able to devour whole cities at a time. Ultimately, as Lewis writes, Holdsworth is arguing that, “the exaltation of discovery can still exist because the man-made and the sublime are not mutually exclusive.”

Dan Holdsworth is a British photographer based in London.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

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Main2

Call me a sucker, but I fell for the charms of Del Rey a long time ago. Seriously, who is this woman and how does she get herself into these scrapes? One minute she’s chopping up YouTube videos and editing films in the back of her trailer, the next she’s the doting wife of a black 1960’s president.

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Image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

A note to viewers: LightBox suggests viewing the panorama in full-screen mode. For visitors on a mobile device or tablet, we recommend utilizing our versions optimized for a fully immersive experience: 

iPAD version iPHONE version

Taking pictures on another world has never been just point and click. For decades, unmanned probes from Earth have been venturing to distant planets, moons and other bodies—and for just as many decades, the images they have sent home have been composed and transmitted in a decidedly painstaking way. That is especially so in the case of the 360-degree panorama NASA is now releasing of the Curiosity rover’s landing site in Mars’s Gale Crater.

Even on Earth, you have to be selective when you photograph a landscape. After all, no matter how glorious your picture of one part of the Grand Canyon is, it by definition leaves out countless other, equally glorious parts. The only way to capture the whole sweep of the place is to take many small images and bit by bit, piece them all together. That’s hard enough when the camera is in your hand. Now imagine doing it when all of your hardware is 154 million miles away and the data has to be streamed back you in a comparative trickle that, even moving at light speed, takes 17 minutes to get here.

(See more: Inside Look at the Mars Curiosity Rover)

But NASA did just that to produce its full pirouette picture of the Marscape that surrounds Curiosity. The panorama was built from 30 smaller images shot by the rover’s Navcams—or navigation cameras—on Aug. 18 and Aug. 7. Each picture has a resolution of 1,024 pixels by 1,024 pixels, and all of them have been combined in such a way that the seams connecting them disappear. The lighter colored strip at the top right of the image is the rim of Gale Crater—chosen as the landing site because it was once a deep sea. Also visible is the peak of nearby Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 mi. (5.5 km) into the rust-red sky. The portions of the picture in the Martian sky that appear gray are parts of the mosaic that have not yet been added, but will be the next time NASA updates the image.

As their name implies, the Navcams are used mostly for reconnaissance purposes—scouting out where the rover will drive and mapping the best route to get there. They were thus not designed with beauty in mind—and that means they shoot only in black and white. The cameras mounted atop Curiosity’s mast capture the full range of desert-like colors that define the brutally beautiful Gale Crater environment. The entire suite of on-board cameras will have a lot of work to do in the two years ahead—and every picture they take will be one worth saving. Once the rover starts rolling, after all, it will never be staying in any one place for long.

(Related: Window on Infinity: Pictures from Space)

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From the late 1930s to 1969, amateur photographer Charles W. Cushman traveled the country documenting American life and landscapes with color photographs. Upon his death in 1972, he bequeathed his collection of 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater, Indiana University, where they remain today. Below are a selection of Cushman’s photos from 1938 [...]

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Everybody dreams of soaring like an eagle, but few consider that they probably wouldn’t be alone in the sky. The 200 photographs in John Downer’s ‘EarthFlight’ (Firefly, 239 pages, $49.95) offer the exultant wing-to-wing camaraderie enjoyed otherwise only by fighter pilots and birds themselves, juxtaposing graceful avians aloft and stunning landscapes beneath. Six continents and all four seasons are represented: A squadron of barnacle geese cross wintry fields on the south coast of Sweden, the pale shading of their feathers mirroring the snow cover below; a common crane (above) surveys the bright stripes of a Dutch tulip farm in the spring; Andean condors arrive at the Peruvian coast in summer; sleek demoiselle cranes transit the rumpled Himalayas in fall. To infiltrate the flocks, Mr. Downer and his team used an ingenious array of tools that included hang gliders, ultralight aircraft and the ‘vulturecam,’ a miniature remote-controlled plane disguised as a bird. Even more unusual were the tiny cameras they mounted on the backs of trained birds, such as a bald eagle that banked and wheeled above the Grand Canyon. The sight of birds’ placid profiles superimposed upon postcard-ready scenes of famous landmarks such as the Canyon adds a note of deadpan comedy: A brown pelican swoops under the Golden Gate Bridge, while rainbow lorikeets alight in front of the Sydney Opera House. A flock, or ‘chatter,’ of lime-green budgerigars flutter near Ayers Rock in the Outback, and common cranes mingle with hot-air balloons over Loire Valley chateaus. Hovering over the roofs of Rome, a cloud of starlings forms a dark calligraphic blob like something from a painting by Miró—a startling reminder that birds are always there, whether we notice them from the ground or not.

- The Books Editors

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