Showing all posts tagged: photography

Super clear photos of Jupiter taken by the Juno probe

3 August 2022
Image of Jupiter, via NASA JunoCam

Image courtesy of NASA/Juno spacecraft.

A selection of some of the clearest photos taken so far, of Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. This stunning image dates from 2019. Juno has been photographing the gas giant since 2016, on a mission originally expected to last five years. NASA is hopeful however the probe will remain operational until 2025.

More of Juno’s photos can be seen here.

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Alternatives to Instagram: what about Flickr?

1 August 2022
Smartphone filming, photo by Pexels

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Has Instagram (IG) jumped the shark? You’d be forgiven for thinking as much, following the stir-up caused by the latest (in a long of line of) changes to the popular Facebook owned photo and video sharing service. Long story short, IG wants to become more like TikTok. Whether their users like it or not. If you’re a content creator, this might be good news. If you’re a user, maybe not so much, especially perhaps if you’ve been using IG since the early days.

The IG of 2011, when I joined, and the IG of 2022, are worlds apart. Checking my IG feed the other week, I couldn’t see a single photo from the people — many of whom I know personally — I follow. Instead the feed was littered with “recommendations”, content IG seems to think I “might like”. But reposted memes? Footage of some influencer I’ve never heard of walking into an elevator? Cats and dogs doing funny things? I wouldn’t mind, if I wanted to see that sort of “content”. Otherwise, no thanks.

After pressing many x buttons, and silencing one recommendation after another, some normality was restored to my IG feed. But to keep up with the people I choose to follow, I often need to go directly to their IG page to see their latest posts. In doing this, I’ve found photos I’d not seen earlier, when previously they’d appeared in the main feed.

But recommendations, intended to “help you discover new and interesting things on Instagram that you may not know exist”, are here to stay, says Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, at Facebook/Meta. Recommendations “help creators reach more people”, and making them part of the IG feed, rather than lurking behind the explore tab, is necessary as IG “needs to evolve because the world is changing quickly.”

Mosseri is correct. The world is changing quickly. Video sharing app TikTok is encroaching on IG’s market share. Quickly, I might add. And this calls for drastic action. The solution appears to be, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Even if that means dragging a whole heap of IG users with no interest in TikTok, into a TikTok-like realm.

Accordingly, more video can be expected to feature in IG feeds, and precedence is now being given to creators, over users who just want to share photos with their friends. Like it or not, more content, in the form of recommendations, and other “interesting things”, you neither know nor care about, are coming your way.

That’s all well and good for the creators. Strictly speaking, I’m a creator. You wouldn’t be reading this if I wasn’t. But if you’re not an IG creator, and not interested in content from people you don’t know, what options do you have? If you’re looking elsewhere for an alternative free-of-cost, ease of use, IG copy, you’ll be disappointed. Even if an IG clone rose to prominence, it would likely follow IG’s path sooner or later. We might find a desert oasis far from the dark shadow IG casts, but not for long, alas.

Smartphone taking photo, by Yuliya Harbachova

Image courtesy of Yuliya Harbachova.

One possibility though may be Flickr, but there are a number of caveats.

Founded in 2004 by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr shared a trajectory similar to IG, being bought by a much larger company, Yahoo!, about a year after launching. One of the earliest online photo-sharing services, Flickr’s been around so long it pre-dates smartphones (as we know them) and smartphone apps. Like IG, the photos and videos you post to Flickr appear in a feed, which friends and followers can like and comment on. Unlike IG, you only see content from the people you chose to follow.

After early success though, Flickr suffered a near death experience several years ago. They were saved, virtually at the last minute, when California based image sharing company, SmugMug, bought them. Since then Flickr’s fortunes have been on the up. But does that make Flickr right for you?

For one thing, Flickr comes at a cost. While a free, ad supported tier, is available, members can only post two hundred photos or videos. To take advantage of Flickr’s full features, including, among other things, unlimited media uploads, you need a paid membership. A one-year plan costs about US$80. If you buy a two-year membership, the annual cost comes in at about US$72 per year. This works out to about US$1.45 a week, not even the price of a decent cup of coffee.

It’s worth noting the membership fee is not as expensive as it might seem. In a way, paid subscriptions can protect members. Should the company take a direction that upsets subscribers, they risk many leaving, and taking their money with them. Subscription free IG users meanwhile have no such leverage. You’re unlikely then to hear Flickr declaring the world is changing quickly, and they therefore must push tacky memes, and surely scintillating video clips of some self-indulgent influencer, upon you.

In that sense, Flickr is less a social network, and, while everyone is of course welcome, more a community of professional, and semi-serious amateur, photographers. Another difference is the size of the Flickr community compared to Instagram’s. IG is said to boast over a billion users. Short wonder content creators have an interest in the platform, and IG wishes to aggressively promote their work. Flickr, meanwhile, according to Photutorial, presently has 112 million members.

Chances are many people you know won’t be existing Flickr members, so you’d need to get your friends onboard, if you want to escape IG’s clutches. But if you’re looking for a place where you’ll only see content from people you chose, then Flickr might be worth taking a closer look at. Another option to consider is 500px. Like Flickr, it offers a free membership plan, allowing seven photos a week to be uploaded, to a maximum of two-thousand per account.

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Why do young people in old photos look old?

19 July 2022

This is something I’ve often wondered about. I’m looking at a photo portrait that might be one hundred years old, of a person who is, or was, aged about twenty at the time the photo was taken. Despite their obvious youth, they still somehow look… old. Why should that be though? It’s a question that Michael Stevens, host of Vsauce, explores in a recent video.

The phenomenon of people who seem to be older at a younger age, is something Stevens calls retrospective aging. People today, he tells us, are aging at a slower rate than those who came before us. Lifestyle and nutrition changes, better healthcare, less smoking, and even the wider spread use of sunscreen, all make a difference. But there’s more to it, as Stevens explains.

As to the one hundred year photo of the twenty year old, who indeed looks twenty and not thirty-five, but still seems old, is something I call the illusion of age.

Compare photography of a century ago with the casual nature of selfie snaps today. One hundred years ago cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Back then, having your photo taken was an occasion. People dressed elegantly. Put on their best clothes. Suits, evening dresses. Tidied up their appearance. People also tended to pose more formally, and seldom smiled. They looked serious. Not to mention their hairstyles, which also suggest a bygone era. All of those factors could combine to present someone in a more mature, older, light.

Then there’s the fact we know said photo is a century old. We’re looking at someone we know, were they still alive, would be aged well over one hundred. The image, the illusion, of an old person, therefore presents itself in our minds. The young person — unfortunately — looks old to our eyes.

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First images from the James Webb Space Telescope

14 July 2022

NASA released the first images captured by the brand new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), on Tuesday, and they did not disappoint.

The first operational JWST photo is of the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster, which is a little over five billion light years distant. Incredible isn’t it? The cluster seems far closer. What we’re really seeing here though is a snapshot of the cluster as it appeared five billion years ago.

Check out the red streak, that looks a little like a forward-slash towards the bottom centre. According to Rebecca Allen, an astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology, this was a galaxy with many of its stars still forming. Five billion years later, it might look like our galaxy, the Milky Way, today.

SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster

Image courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO.

This picture of the Southern Ring Nebula, also known as Eight-Burst Nebula, and Caldwell 74, depicts the death throes of a binary star. The cloud of dust, hydrogen, and ionised gas, surrounding the binary is about half a light year across.

Southern Ring Nebula

Image courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

The Carina Nebula, situated some 8500 light years from Earth, is the sort of image we love seeing from deep space telescopes. Brimming with colour, pearly bright stars in the foreground, and intrigue, these nebulae are akin to intricate tapestries.

Carina Nebula

Image courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

Hands up who’s hanging out for the next batch of JWST images…

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2022 astronomy photographer of the year shortlist

7 July 2022

The 2022 astronomy photographer of the year shortlist was unveiled on Tuesday 5 July. The award, organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich is in its thirteenth year, and the entries, as usual, never fail to amaze. Shortlisted images are on display at London’s National Maritime Museum until Sunday 7 August 2022, with the winners being announced on Thursday 15 September 2022.

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Photos from inside the besieged Mariupol steel plant

23 May 2022

The photos were taken by Dmytro Kozatsky, one of several thousand Ukrainian soldiers who managed to defend the Azovstal steel plant for almost three months, from Russian invaders. Kozatsky is now being held by the Russians as a prisoner of war.

Here’s hoping he wins an award for these images.

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Indulge your oblong obsession at the Selfie Museum

15 March 2022

If the Selfie Museum, in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, isn’t a sign of the times, and indicative of our collective oblong obsession, I don’t know what is. But if you’re looking to change up the backdrops for your self-portraits, the Selfie Museum — which presently boasts thirty-five photo sets — is the place to go.

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Photos of Comet Leonard

23 December 2021

Comet Leonard is making a once in eighty-thousand year flyby of the Earth, lighting up, in a way, the festive season night sky. A hunt around on Twitter will turn up a mass of fantastic images of the comet, but here are a few of my favourites.

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Drone Photo Awards for 2021

15 September 2021

Who’d have thought drone photography would ever be elevated to an art form? The winning entries in the Drone Photo Awards for 2021 have been named. Stunning work.

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